United Nations (Reuters) – Israel’s military suggested on Tuesday that the United Nations ask Hamas for fuel supplies after the U.N. agency providing aid to Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip warned it would have to halt operations on Wednesday night if no fuel was delivered.
The agency, known as UNRWA, posted its warning on social media on Tuesday. The Israel Defense Forces reposted it and said that Hamas militants have more than 500,000 litres of fuel in tanks inside besieged Gaza.
“Ask Hamas if you can have some,” the IDF wrote.
Rafah is the main crossing in and out of Gaza that does not border Israel. It has become the focus of efforts to deliver aid since Israel imposed a “total siege” of the enclave in retaliation for an attack by Hamas militants on Oct. 7.
The United States is leading negotiations with Israel, Egypt and the U.N. to try and create a sustained delivery mechanism for aid to Gaza. They are wrangling over procedures for inspecting aid and bombardments on the Gaza side of the border.
While there have been some limited deliveries of food, water and medicine since Saturday, no fuel has been allowed in. Israel is concerned about the possible diversion of fuel deliveries by Hamas and White House national security spokesman John Kirby on Tuesday described Israel’s concerns as legitimate.
“We still believe, just in general, that fuel needs to be able to get in to the people of Gaza,” he told reporters.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres described the daily deliveries of aid since Saturday as “a drop of aid in an ocean of need,” while U.S. President Joe Biden on dubbed humanitarian efforts to deliver help via Rafah as “not fast enough.”
Senior U.N. aid official Lynn Hastings told the U.N. Security Council earlier on Tuesday that the United Nations has 400,000 litres on trucks in Egypt ready to go and that it would provide fuel for around 2-1/2 days.
However, Israel’s military spokesperson Daniel Hagari on Tuesday accused Hamas of stealing petrol from UNRWA, adding: “Petrol will not enter Gaza. Hamas takes the petrol for its military infrastructure.”
Hastings told the Security Council that no fuel “means no hospitals functioning, no desalination of water and no baking.”
“Many people are drinking saline groundwater, increasing the risks of diarrhea, cholera, and other health issues. We urge Israel to bring water and electricity supplies back to pre-conflict levels and to work with us to find a secure way of bringing fuel into Gaza,” she said.
The World Health Organization said on Tuesday that in addition to hospitals that have had to close due to damage and attacks, “six hospitals across the Gaza Strip have already shut down due to lack of fuel.”