Gazans 'sell aid to buy food' as shortages bite

Shopkeeper says aid is being sold as local economy collapses and people grow desperate to survive

Displaced Palestinians shop for food at a market in Khan Younis refugee camp. EPA
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Some Palestinians are selling aid being delivered into the besieged Gaza Strip as the price of food, fuel and other basic items soars, The National has learnt.

A four-day temporary truce is coming to an end across the enclave, where about 15,000 people have been killed in seven weeks of relentless Israeli air strikes.

As the skies fell silent, thousands of people resorted to sleeping in queues for fuel brought in on humanitarian aid convoys, but the high price of petrol and other items has pushed some to sell aid brought in through the Rafah border crossing with Egypt.

“People come to sell us some of the food that they received from humanitarian aid, because they need money," supermarket owner Ahmed Azeez said in the southern city of Khan Younis, the main hub for displaced civilians from northern Gaza.

"They ask high prices as they don’t have a lot of food, so we buy it at high prices. It's not good for customers."

A litre of milk has more than doubled in price, from four to 10 shekels ($1.07 to $2.69), said the shop owner.

Israel has only allowed limited amounts of aid into Gaza since the war began on October 7, with the first lorry loads moving through Rafah on October 21.

It pledged an increase of aid during the four-day truce, including a limited amount of fuel which began on Friday morning.

Aid lorries scrambled to enter Gaza from Arish in Egypt, where aid has been piling up in recent weeks, but what has been allowed into Gaza still fails to meet needs. Aid reached a record of 200 lorry loads on Friday, still about 300 fewer than prewar levels.

During the course of the war, only dozens of lorries have been delivering aid per day.

Aid has struggled to reach the northern half of Gaza, which has seen the fiercest fighting between Israeli forces and Hamas, according to the UN.

The UN's World Food Programme and Children's Fund conducted a joint mission to deliver vital aid to northern Gaza on Sunday.

“It’s a promising step but the team recounted painful stories from the people who haven’t received any aid in weeks. They saw hunger, desperation and destruction,” WFP representative in the occupied Palestinian territory, Samer AbdelJaber, wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

'Soldiers shoot at us'

Food shortages have caused the price of what is available to skyrocket, affecting shopkeepers and farmers buying supplies.

"I need to go early to the vegetable market to buy vegetables for my store, but I don't find the ones I need,” greengrocer Mohammed Alagha told The National.

“Most of the vegetables are not good quality and are so expensive. Some prices have increased by 200 per cent, people are so frustrated."

At Mr Alagha's shop, customers buy little, citing the high prices.

"There isn't enough water to water the vegetables, so there aren't enough for the markets," said farmer Hossam Khudeh, who has land to the east of Khan Younis.

Mr Khudeh said he was able to visit his farm during the temporary truce, a rare opportunity since the war began.

"We can't reach our farms while the fighting continues. The Israeli soldiers shoot at us."

One farmer was shot dead and another wounded by Israeli soldiers during the first days of the truce, the Palestinian news agency Wafa reported.

It also reported seven injured by Israeli fire near the Indonesian and Al Quds hospitals in northern Gaza, despite Israel's obligation to uphold the pause in fighting.

A lack of basic supplies has also pushed thousands of people to sleep in long queues.

Tens of thousands of citizens are sleeping in front of petrol stations, residents have told The National, but supply is too low and prices too high to meet many of their needs.

“I have no gas and have been using firewood to cook for 40 days,” Umm Jihad said as she waited in line to fill up a gas canister.

“It costs around 70 shekels now, and it used to be around 56. It is so expensive, but what can we do? I can’t keep cooking on firewood – there’s not enough, and we can’t keep cutting down trees.”

The UN reported queues of two kilometres at a filling station in Khan Younis, with people who were unable to secure cooking gas "burning doors and window frames to cook".

The fuel shortage has been a critical issue in the war, forcing almost all hospitals across the enclave to shut down. An ensuing lack of electricity has killed patients reliant on ventilators and several premature babies whose incubators ran out of power.

Ms Jihad said she began waiting in line in the early hours of Monday morning and had expected to queue for several more hours.

“I hope they can succeed in bringing a ceasefire so we can go back to our normal lives.”

Updated: November 27, 2023, 3:00 PM