UN says lawlessness in Gaza impedes aid via Kerem Shalom despite Israel's military pause

FILE PHOTO: A food aid truck sits abandoned near the entrance to the Kerem Shalom border crossing, as military operations continue in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, at an area outside Kerem Shalom

By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United Nations said on Tuesday it has been unable to distribute aid in the Gaza Strip from the Israel-controlled Kerem Shalom crossing because of lawlessness and panic among hungry people in the area, despite Israel's daytime pause in military activity.

Israel's military said on Sunday there would be a daily pause in its attacks from 0500 GMT until 1600 GMT until further notice along the road that leads from Israel via the Kerem Shalom crossing to the Salah al-Din Road and northwards in Gaza.

The U.N. welcomed the move, U.N. spokesperson Farhan Haq said on Tuesday, but added that "this has yet to translate into more aid reaching people in need." He said the area between Kerem Shalom and the Salah al-Din road was very dangerous.

"Fighting is not the only reason for being unable to pick up aid ... The lack of any police or rule of law in the area makes it very dangerous to move goods there," he said.

"But we are ready to engage with all parties to ensure that aid reaches people in Gaza, and we'll continue to work with the authorities and with security forces, trying to see what can be done to have security conditions," Haq said.

"When aid gets to a place, people are starving, and they're worried that this may be the last food that they see," he said. "They have to be assured that there's going to be a regular flow of goods so that there's not a panic when we get to the area."

The United Nations and aid groups have long complained of the dangers and obstacles to getting aid in and distributing it throughout Gaza, where the U.N. had warned a famine is looming.

Since the Israel-Hamas war began more than eight months ago, aid for 2.3 million Palestinians has primarily entered through two crossings into southern Gaza - the Rafah crossing from Egypt and the Kerem Shalom crossing from Israel.

But deliveries were disrupted when Israel stepped up its military operations in Rafah last month with the stated aim of routing remaining units of Hamas fighters. Egypt closed the Rafah crossing due to the threat posed to humanitarian work and has routed a backlog of aid and fuel via Kerem Shalom.

Haq said on Tuesday that the Rafah crossing remained closed and there was limited access via Kerem Shalom. In Gaza's north, he said the Erez crossing was not accessible due to an escalation of fighting, while the West Erez and Zikim crossings were operational.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)