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Palestinians across Gaza face ‘man-made famine’: UNRWA

The United Nations Relief Works and Agency (UNRWA) has warned that the grip of a “man-made” famine is tightening its grip across the war-torn Gaza Strip, as Israel has severely blockaded the Palestinian territory plunging it into a humanitarian crisis.

UNRWA Commissioner General Philippe Lazzarini on Wednesday sounded the alert, condemning Israel for blocking aid deliveries to the besieged Gaza Strip and attempting to end the agency’s activities in the war-ravaged coastal sliver.

“Today, an insidious campaign to end UNRWA’s operations is underway, with serious implications for international peace and security,” he told the 15-member UN Security Council, warning, “Across Gaza, a man-made famine is tightening its grip.”

Lazzarini, whose agency is a critical source of support for people in Gaza, also said that in the north of the Palestinian territory, “infants and young children have begun to die of malnutrition and dehydration.”

The occupying regime, however, prevents UNRWA from delivering the desperately needed aid to starving inhabitants of Gaza.

“Across the border, food and clean water wait. But UNRWA is denied permission to deliver this aid and save lives,” Lazzarini further told the UNSC.

Founded in 1949, the agency provides services for over six million Palestinian refugees living across the occupied West Bank, the Gaza Strip, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. In Gaza, it is the primary UN agency delivering healthcare, and essential humanitarian support to the Palestinians trapped in the blockaded territory.

Many of the UNRWA’s 13,000 staff are Palestinian.

Israel has repeatedly equated UNRWA staff with members of Hamas, claiming that the agency has links to the Palestinian resistance group without providing any proof of the allegations. Israel has also been lobbying hard to have UNRWA closed as it is the only UN agency to have a specific mandate to look after the basic needs of Palestinian refugees.

Under pressure from the occupying regime, Lazzarini has already fired the accused staff and an internal UN inquiry is underway into Israel’s allegations against the agency.

He has also said that its members, who had been detained, were tortured in Israeli custody, with some of them being stripped naked, among other forms of abuse.

According to UNRWA, several of its detainees were also subjected to insults and humiliation such as deprivation of water, food, sleep and toilets. In some cases, they were made to act like animals and were urinated on.

The detainees were threatened with prolonged detention, injury or the killing of their family members, the agency added.

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