Thousands In Gaza Storm UN Warehouses: A Sign Of Desperation After Weeks-Long ‘Siege’


Relief agencies warned on Sunday that civil order is starting to break down in Gaza after thousands of desperate people stormed UN-operated warehouses and other aid distribution centres in the ravaged enclave, taking wheat flour, hygiene supplies and other basic survival goods. 

The United Nations agency dealing with Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, and the UN World Foord Programme (WFP) were among the humanitarian organizations reporting the incidents, which follow a harrowing 24-hour communication blackout and persistent access challenges.

One of the warehouses that was stormed, in Deir al-Balah, is where UNRWA stores supplies from the humanitarian convoys coming from Egypt.  

WFP likewise reported that a warehouse contained 80 tons of mixed food commodities, mainly canned food, wheat flour and sunflower oil, all being stored there ahead of distribution to displaced families.

‘People are scared and desperate’

“This is a worrying sign that civil order is starting to break down after three weeks of war and a tight siege on Gaza,” said the Director of UNRWA Affairs in the Gaza Strip, Thomas White, who added: “People are scared, frustrated and desperate”.

He went on to say that the tensions and fear were made worse by the cuts in the phones and internet communication lines.

“They feel that they are on their own, cut off from their families inside Gaza and the rest of the world,” said Mr. White, who noted that massive displacement of people from the north of the Gaza Strip southward has placed enormous pressure on those communities, adding further burden on crumbling public services.  

Some families received up to 50 relatives taking shelter in one household.  

“Supplies on the market are running out while the humanitarian aid coming into the Gaza Strip on trucks from Egypt is insufficient. The needs of the communities are immense, if only for basic survival, while the aid we receive is meager and inconsistent,” added Mr. White.

‘Set up to fail’

The UNRWA official reported that to date, just over 80 trucks of aid crossed into Gaza in one week.  

On Saturday, 28 October, there was no convoy due to the blackout in communications. UNRWA, which is the main actor for the reception and storage of aid in the Gaza Strip, was not able to communicate with the different parties to coordinate the passage of the convoy.  

“The current system of convoys is geared to fail,” said Mr. White, explaining that very few trucks, slow processes, strict inspections, supplies that do not match the requirements of UNRWA and the other aid organizations, and mostly the ongoing ban on fuel, “are all a recipe for a failed system.”

“We call for a regular and steady flow line of humanitarian supplies into the Gaza Strip to respond to the needs especially as tensions and frustrations grow,” he concluded.  

Meanwhile, UNRWA teams in Gaza have reported that internet services and connections were restored, and they will reassess the situation with the aim of resuming convoys and distribution of assistance.  

Samer Abdeljaber, WFP Representative and Country Director in Palestine, made a similar plea: “We need a humanitarian pause to be able to reach the people in need with food, water and basic necessities safely and effectively. Much more access is urgently needed, and the trickle of supplies needs to become a flow.”

The storming of the supply warehouses in Gaza was “a sign of people losing hope and becoming more desperate by the minute. They are hungry, isolated, and have been suffering violence and immense distress for three weeks.”  

Adding to the overall concerns, WFP said that fuel shortages and loss of connectivity also threaten to bring humanitarian operations to a halt. Without additional fuel supplies, bakeries working with WFP in Gaza are no longer operational and transporters cannot deliver food where it’s needed.

WFP reported that it plans to provide food lifeline to over one million people who are going hungry now and the agency needs a steady supply of food with at least 40 FP trucks to cross daily into Gaza to be able to meet the escalating needs.  

Honoring fallen colleagues

Also on Sunday, in the Jordanian capital, Amman, UNRWA, led by Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini, organized a ceremony to honor the memory of its 59 staff members who have lost their lives in Gaza since the crisis erupted on 7 October.  

“Every day becomes darker for the United Nations and UNRWA as the number of our colleagues being killed increases. Talk of indescribable suffering flows from Gaza hourly,” the agency said.

UN News

News provided by UN News Centre

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