On Wednesday morning, Israel made a significant decision to allow UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) trucks to refuel at the Rafah crossing. This decision came after UNRWA announced a complete halt to its humanitarian activities in Gaza due to a severe lack of fuel and equipment. The move was influenced in part by intense pressure from the Biden administration, which sought to ensure that all requirements of UN organizations within the Gaza Strip were met.
The Israeli cabinet's decision to approve the supply of fuel faced strong criticism domestically. However, UNRWA, while acknowledging the gesture, asserted that the quantities of fuel provided were inadequate for their needs. Notably, this marked the first instance of fuel entering the Gaza Strip since the outbreak of the conflict over a month ago.
"As of tonight, 70% of people in the📍#GazaStrip will not have access to clean water because of the fuel shortages"@JulietteTouma tells @CNN key services including water desalination plants and hospitals cease to operate because there is no fuel. pic.twitter.com/5S4vbnXWG2— UNRWA (@UNRWA) November 15, 2023
UNRWA officials expressed their concern, stating that the amount of fuel received was only 9% of what they required daily to carry out their life-saving activities. They also emphasized that Israel restricted the use of fuel primarily for transporting aid supplies through the Rafah crossing. According to UNRWA, the shortage of fuel was affecting the operation of hospitals and the pumping of well water, raising grave concerns about the humanitarian situation.
Even before receiving this fuel supply, UNRWA had been warning of the imminent complete halt to humanitarian aid upon which over 2 million people in Gaza depend. The halt was primarily due to Israel's decision not to allow fuel into the Gaza Strip since October 7. UNRWA spokespersons expressed their frustration, stating, "Many people will suffer, and lives may be at risk. It's disheartening that humanitarian organizations must plead for fuel."
The decision to refuel UNRWA trucks at the Rafah crossing sparked criticism from within the Israeli government. Minister of National Security Itamar Ben Gvir voiced his concerns, equating diesel fuel with potential weapons. Transport Minister Miri Regev, a member of the Defense Political Cabinet, tweeted her opposition to the decision, stating, "Fuel for UNRWA is fuel for Hamas."
In addition to government officials, MK Tali Gottlieb of the Likud party criticized the decision during a speech in the Knesset plenum. She expressed disbelief, saying, "You're deciding to move fuel into Gaza right under our noses? Are you out of your minds? If any right-wing voter assumes that I'll blindly support the Prime Minister and the government, think again. The people of Israel do not support the idea of fuel entering the Gaza Strip."