Gazans plunder UNRWA food supplies as ‘civil order’ breaks down in war-torn Strip

Thousands of desperate residents break into warehouses, stealing staples and hygiene supplies as conditions worsen amid siege; UN chief Guterres urges ceasefire to end ‘nightmare’

Palestinians storm a UN-run aid supply center, that distributes food to displaced families following Israel's call for more than one million residents in northern Gaza to move south for their safety, in Deir el-Balah on October 28, 2023. (MOHAMMED ABED/AFP)
Palestinians storm a UN-run aid supply center, that distributes food to displaced families following Israel's call for more than one million residents in northern Gaza to move south for their safety, in Deir el-Balah on October 28, 2023. (MOHAMMED ABED/AFP)

The United Nations warned Sunday that “civil order” was starting to collapse in Gaza after thousands of people ransacked its food warehouses in the war-torn Palestinian enclave.

The UN relief agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) said wheat, flour and other supplies had been pillaged at several warehouses.

“This is a worrying sign that civil order is starting to break down after three weeks of war and a tight siege,” said UNRWA’s Gaza chief Thomas White.

One of the warehouses in the central town of Deir el-Balah had been used to store supplies from humanitarian convoys that began crossing into Gaza from Egypt on October 21, it said.

“Thousands of people broke into several UNRWA warehouses and distribution centers in the middle and southern areas of the Gaza Strip, taking wheat flour and other basic survival items like hygiene supplies,” UNRWA said.

Israel has been fighting Hamas since October 7, when some 2,500 terrorists stormed into Israel from Gaza by land, sea, and air, killing over 1,400 people in Israel, a majority of them civilians in their homes and at an outdoor music festival.

Hamas and allied terrorist factions also dragged over 230 hostages — including some 30 children — into the Gaza Strip where they remain captive.

Members of a family sit together in the playground of a school run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) agency that has been converted into a shelter for displaced Palestinians in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on October 25, 2023. (MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)

Israel has responded with intensive strikes on Gaza and a gradually expanding ground operation, declaring its intention to eradicate the terror group that rules the Strip.

Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry said Saturday that more than 8,000 people had been killed in the war, many of them children. The figures issued by the terror group cannot be independently verified, and are believed to include its own members killed in Gaza, and the victims of what Israel says are hundreds of errant Palestinian rockets aimed at Israel that have landed in the Strip since the war began.

Israel originally imposed a total blockade on food, water, medicine, and fuel deliveries into Gaza, but later allowed humanitarian aid convoys — not including fuel — to bring supplies in from Egypt, and has resumed some of its water supply.

Since then, UNRWA says 84 aid trucks have crossed into Gaza but aid agencies say the numbers are far too low. Before the conflict, UN figures showed an average of 500 trucks a day entering Gaza.

“Supplies on the market are running out while the humanitarian aid coming into the Gaza Strip on trucks from Egypt is insufficient,” said White.

“The needs of the communities are immense, if only for basic survival, while the aid we receive is meager and inconsistent,” said the UN official.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Sunday warned the situation in Gaza is declining rapidly as he repeated desperate appeals for a ceasefire to end the “nightmare” of bloodshed.

“The situation in Gaza is growing more desperate by the hour. I regret that instead of a critically needed humanitarian pause, supported by the international community, Israel has intensified its military operations,” Guterres said on a visit to Nepal’s capital Kathmandu. “The number of civilians who have been killed and injured is totally unacceptable.”

“The world is witnessing a humanitarian catastrophe taking place before our eyes,” Guterres added.

“More than two million people, with nowhere safe to go, are being denied the essentials for life – food, water, shelter and medical care – while being subjected to relentless bombardment. I urge all those with responsibility to step back from the brink.”

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (C-R) walks with Nepal’s Foreign Minister Narayan Prakash Saud (C-L) upon his arrival for a four-day official visit, at Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathamndu on October 29, 2023. (PRAKASH MATHEMA / AFP)

The UN’s top diplomat arrived in Nepal on a four-day visit following talks in Qatar.

“I reiterate my appeal for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, the unconditional release of all hostages, and the delivery of sustained humanitarian relief at a scale that meets the needs of the people of Gaza, he said.

“We must join forces to end this nightmare for the people of Gaza, Israel, and all those affected around the world, including here in Nepal.”

Ten Nepali students were killed in Israel during the Hamas massacre on October 7, and one Nepali citizen is missing.

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