Injured Gazans and foreign citizens forced to wait for evacuations to resume

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has faced criticism over his leadership during the conflict

Palestinians look for survivors under the rubble of a destroyed house following an Israeli air strike in Gaza city. AP
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Efforts to resume the evacuation of injured Gazans and foreign citizens through the Rafah border crossing were continuing on Sunday, Egyptian officials said.

It comes as the UN presses for more aid to be allowed in to help Palestinians trapped amid Israel's bombardment and siege of the enclave.

Evacuations were suspended after an Israeli strike on Friday hit an ambulance in Gaza being used to transport injured people to the crossing, the officials said.

The Israeli military claimed the vehicle was carrying Hamas militants.

Israel launched its war on Gaza after the Hamas killed about 1,400 people, mainly clivilians, in southern Israel on October 7. Nearly 10,000 people have since been killed in Israeli strikes on Gaza, most of them civilians, and 25,000 injured, according to Palestinian authorities.

The evacuations from Rafah, the only exit point from Gaza not controlled by Israel, to Egypt's Sinai Peninsula began last Wednesday as part of a deal brokered by regional states, with the involvement of Israel and Hamas.

But the Gazan border authority on Sunday did not publish its daily list of foreign citizens and dependents approved to leave the enclave.

Egyptian officials told The National that Hamas suspended the evacuation of foreign citizens over Israel's refusal to allow fuel to enter Gaza from Egypt and because of what they said was stringent vetting by Israeli officials of the lists of injured to be moved to Egypt.

The officials said Hamas wanted more injured to cross into Egypt for treatment, as well as guarantees for their safety while travelling to the border crossing.

Cairo is reluctant to take in large numbers of Palestinians without guarantees from the US and Israel that they would be allowed to return to Gaza when they have recovered, the officials said.

A senior US official said Washington hoped the crossing would open on Sunday.

Aid lorries were still able to travel into the territory, two Egyptian sources told Reuters.

The UN has said $1.2 billion will be needed to meet aid requirements in the coastal enclave until the end of the year.

On Saturday, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned that “the humanitarian situation in Gaza is horrific”, repeating his call for an immediate ceasefire.

Slow Israeli approvals of aid to Gaza, following lorry inspections at the Rafah crossing, mean that, at best, about 100 lorries a day are entering the enclave.

Mr Guterres previously said Gaza required at least 500 lorries of supplies a day in peacetime, albeit during an Israeli blockade that became an almost complete siege following Hamas's October 7 attack in southern Israel.

Mr Guterres, however, has faced criticism from Francesca Albanese, special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories, who said he needed to show stronger leadership.

“These dark times require a strong leader. As people in Gaza face the risk of genocide, I implore you to take strong action for (1) immediate ceasefire, (2) humanitarian aid, (3) release of hostages/arbitrarily detained persons, (4) oPt protective presence,” she wrote on X.

The latter refers to the UN’s mandate to protect civilian life in conflicts, using an acronym for the occupied Palestinian territories.

It comes as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is engaged in a regional tour, as Washington faces mounting criticism for what has been regarded as a deferential position on Israel’s bombardment and siege of Gaza.

Mr Blinken met Philippe Lazzarini, commissioner general of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, in Amman on Saturday.

They discussed the need for UNRWA and its “essential humanitarian mission” in Gaza, State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said.

Mr Blinken acknowledged the critical work of UNRWA staff and conveyed his sorrow for the 72 staff who have been killed since the war began.

More than 1.5 million people have been displaced and about 600,000 are crowded in shelters run by the UN. The US says about 400,000 people remain in Gaza city as Israeli forces move through the enclave, cutting off the northern, most densely populated districts.

Heavy aerial bombardment continues in support of an Israeli ground incursion, with significant civilian casualties.

Palestinian news agency Wafa reported that 51 people were killed and dozens injured in an Israeli bombardment of Gaza's Al Maghazi camp on Saturday night.

Gaza Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf Al Qidra said a large number of people were killed, without giving an exact figure.

Earlier, Hamas reported on its Telegram channel that Israel was “directly bombing citizens' homes” in Al Maghazi.

“Women, children and newborns in Gaza are disproportionately bearing the burden of the escalation of hostilities in the occupied Palestinian territory, both as casualties and in reduced access to health services,” the UN children's fund warned on Saturday.

“The bombardments, damaged or non-functioning health facilities, massive levels of displacement, collapsing water and electricity supplies as well as restricted access to food and medicines, are severely disrupting maternal, newborn, and child health services.

"There are an estimated 50,000 pregnant women in Gaza, with more than 180 giving birth every day. Fifteen per cent of them are likely to experience pregnancy or birth-related complications and need additional medical care."

With reporting from agencies

Updated: November 05, 2023, 7:26 PM