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The United Nations has warned that Israel’s military incursion into Rafah and the closure of border crossings pose a major obstacle to aid operations in the Gaza Strip, with disastrous implications for its population.

No aid trucks have entered Gaza since Sunday, the United Nations said Wednesday, while Israel sent tanks and troops to Rafah and blocked the two southern crossings where most of the aid entered, Rafah on the Egyptian border and near Kerem Shalom on the Israeli border. .

Israel said the Kerem Shalom crossing reopened on Wednesday, but did not say when the Rafah crossing would reopen. The UN disputed Israel’s request.

The fighting in the Rafah area and the closure of the crossings bring, at least temporarily, the aid operations back to the conditions of the first weeks of the war, when an Israeli and Egyptian blockade prevented anything from entering Gaza, producing a desperate shortage of food, water, fuel, medicine and other supplies. Israel described the military action that began Monday as a limited incursion into Rafah that took control of the border crossing, and not as a full-fledged offensive that it had promised to carry out, despite warnings from the United States and its humanitarian groups that it would be a dangerous operation. a humanitarian catastrophe.

United Nations officials said the conditions threatened to halt all humanitarian operations in Gaza.

About a million people displaced from other parts of Gaza, more than half of them children, have sought refuge there, living in squalid conditions and relying on international aid.

“Rafah is the epicenter of humanitarian operations in Gaza,” António Guterres, UN secretary-general, said on Tuesday. “Attacking Rafah would further undermine our efforts to support people in dire humanitarian straits as famine looms.”

Before the war began last October, about 500 humanitarian and other commercial trucks a day transported supplies to Gaza, where about 2.3 million people live. Even after deliveries resumed, they were a fraction of their pre-war level, as Israel kept most crossings closed, insisted on close inspection of every cargo, and banned some supplies.

After intense international pressure on Israel, including from the United States, the average rose to more than 200 trucks of humanitarian aid per day in the second half of April and the first days of May, according to the United Nations, still well above below what was declared by humanitarian agencies. it was necessary and what the Biden administration had requested. No commercial trucks have entered Gaza since the war began in October.

For months, the United Nations and aid groups have also struggled to gain access and safe passage for their staff working in Gaza, despite intense negotiations with Israel.

Now, U.N. officials say the limited progress they have made is in jeopardy.

“We are managing the entire aid operation opportunistically and not holistically: if there is something we can take, we will take it,” Stéphane Dujarric, a U.N. spokesman, said in an interview Wednesday.

“We want the ability to work without being in the middle of a conflict zone and without the people we are trying to help being terrified,” he added.

Palestinians displaced in search of water in Khan Younis, Gaza, on Wednesday.Credit…Mohammed Saber/EPA, via Shutterstock

The day before, the leader of the United Nations humanitarian office for the Palestinian territories, Andrea De Domenico, had said from Jerusalem in a video briefing with journalists that the fuel would run out in a few days, cutting off communications, closing hospitals and blocking the distribution of food and other essential goods. help.

Gaza’s electricity grid stopped working at the start of the war. The only power available now comes from generators, making fuel essential.

The presence of Israeli tanks and fighting around the Rafah border made it impossible for the United Nations to access fuel in storage facilities in the area, De Domenico said. He added that people were fleeing Rafah to areas where there was no shelter, clean water and drainage systems.

“It is impossible to improve the existing situation in the new displacement sites without the entry of supplies and without the fuel to transport them to the place where the people are concentrated,” De Domenico said.

If the area around the Rafah crossing became a battle zone, U.N. officials said, it would be nearly impossible to deliver and distribute aid.