Israel accused of violating UN court order and blocking Gaza aid

Humanitarian aid trucks enter the Gaza Strip from Israel through the Kerem Shalom crossing in Rafah on Sunday (AP)
Humanitarian aid trucks enter the Gaza Strip from Israel through the Kerem Shalom crossing in Rafah on Sunday (AP)

Human Rights Watch (HRW) says Israel is blocking aid to Gaza, in a failure to comply with a UN court order to provide aid to people stuck in the besieged enclave.

The organisation reported there has been a 30 per cent drop in the daily average number of aid trucks entering Gaza on Monday.

Citing UN figures, they say that between January 27 and February 21 the daily average of trucks entering stood at 93, compared to 147 trucks a day in the three weeks before the world court's ruling.

The daily average dropped further, to 57, between February 9 and 21, according to the figures.

HRW argues that this would be against the landmark ruling in The Hague, made a month ago, ordering Israel to follow six provisional measures.

These include taking "immediate and effective measures to enable the provision of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance to address the adverse conditions of life faced by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip."

HRW said Israel was not adequately facilitating fuel deliveries to hard-hit northern Gaza and blamed Israel for blocking aid from reaching the north, where the World Food Program said last week it was forced to suspend aid deliveries because of increasing chaos in the isolated part of the territory.

"The Israeli government has simply ignored the court's ruling, and in some ways even intensified its repression, including further blocking lifesaving aid," said Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine director at HRW.

Palestinians line up for a meal in Rafah (AP)
Palestinians line up for a meal in Rafah (AP)

Philippe Lazzarini, commissioner general of the UN agency for Palestinians, said it has not been able to deliver food to northern Gaza since January 23, adding on X, formerly Twitter, that "our calls to send food aid have been denied."

Israel said that 245 trucks of aid entered Gaza on Sunday, less than half the amount that entered daily before the war.

The nation denies it is restricting the entry of aid and has instead blamed humanitarian organisations operating inside Gaza, saying hundreds of trucks filled with aid sit idle on the Palestinian side of the main crossing.

The US says it can't always reach the trucks at the crossing because it is at times too dangerous.

United Nations agencies and aid groups say the hostilities, the Israeli military's refusal to facilitate deliveries and the breakdown of order inside Gaza make it increasingly difficult to get vital aid to much of the coastal enclave.

In some cases, crowds of desperate Palestinians have surrounded delivery trucks and stripped the supplies off them. The UN has called on Israel to open more crossings, including in the north, and to improve the coordination process.

Also on Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office also said the War Cabinet had approved a plan to deliver humanitarian aid safely into Gaza in a way that would "prevent the cases of looting” but it did not disclose further details.

In a preliminary response to a South African petition accusing Israel of genocide, the UN's top court ordered Israel to do all it can to prevent death, destruction and any acts of genocide in Gaza.

It stopped short of ordering an end to its military offensive that has triggered a humanitarian catastrophe in the tiny Palestinian enclave. Israel vehemently denies the charges against it, saying it is fighting a war in self-defence.

People find their way through a rubble-covered alley, following overnight Israeli bombardment in Rafah on Sunday (AFP via Getty Images)
People find their way through a rubble-covered alley, following overnight Israeli bombardment in Rafah on Sunday (AFP via Getty Images)

One month later and nearly five months into the war, preparations are underway for Israel to expand its ground operation into Rafah, Gaza's southernmost town along the border with Egypt, where 1.4 million Palestinians have flooded in in search of safety.

Also on Monday, Mr Netanyahu's office said the army had presented to the War Cabinet its operational plan for Rafah as well as plans to evacuate civilians from the battle zones.

The situation in Rafah, where dense tent camps have sprouted to house the displaced, has sparked global concern and Israel's allies have warned that it must protect civilians in its battle against Hamas.

It comes as Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh said he was submitting his government's resignation.

The move, which still must be accepted by President Mahmoud Abbas, could open the door to US-backed reforms in the Palestinian Authority, which the US wants to rule postwar Gaza but in a revitalized shape.

The current fighting, launched after Hamas-led militants rampaged across southern Israel, killing 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking roughly 250 people hostage, has unleashed unimaginable devastation in Gaza.

Nearly 30,000 people have been killed in Gaza, two-thirds of them women and children, according to the Health Ministry in Hamas-run Gaza which does not distinguish in its count between fighters and noncombatants. Israel says it has killed 10,000 militants.

Fighting has flattened large swaths of Gaza's urban landscape, displacing about 80 per cent of the territory's 2.3 million people who have crammed into increasingly smaller spaces looking for safety.

The crisis has pushed a quarter of the population toward starvation and raised fears of imminent famine, especially in the northern part of Gaza, which was the first focus of Israel's ground invasion and where starving residents have been forced to eat animal fodder and search for food in demolished buildings.