Philippe Lazzarini, Commissioner-General of UNRWA, said that relief activities in Rafah are becoming more difficult due to the military operation currently underway and the pressure on the city. He stated that the United Nations was unable, yesterday, for the first time, to work with the minimum protection represented by the presence of the local police.
In a joint press conference with European Union officials, Lazzarini said that the lack of local police led to UNRWA convoys and trucks at the border being looted and vandalized by hundreds of young people.
He stated that the local police, which provide the last measure of protection to maintain a minimum of public order, may no longer be able to work because many of their members have been killed over the past few days and others have become more reluctant to be seen with these convoys.
He added, "The coming days will tell us whether we will be able to continue working in this exceptionally difficult environment." Lazzarini briefed European Union officials on the restrictions imposed on the agency, which you hear about through social media or the media rather than through direct communications with the Israeli authorities.
He said that the agency has food aid sufficient for one million people for a month at the port of Ashdod, but instructions were issued "to the contractor not to handle or transport this shipment because it is destined for UNRWA."
He referred to reports about the local bank's decision to freeze the UNRWA account, in addition to the difficulties related to visas, which are no longer issued on an annual basis but are renewed monthly or every two months. He said that there is a draft law being drafted in the Knesset that aims to end UNRWA’s work in Jerusalem.
Lazzarini pointed out that 5% of the population of the Gaza Strip - that is, more than 100,000 people - were killed, injured, or went missing in just 4 months. He said that at least 17,000 children in the Gaza Strip - 1% of the total number of displaced people - are unaccompanied or separated from their families, according to UNICEF.
In the press conference, he also touched on areas whose residents suffer from severe food insecurity and the possibility of famine, especially in northern Gaza, where there are about 300,000 people whom UNRWA has been unable to reach with aid convoys since January 23.