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Oxfam says Israel 'deliberately' blocking aid to Gaza

LONDON: Anti-poverty charity Oxfam on Monday accused Israel of intentionally preventing the delivery of aid into Gaza during its war with Hamas, in violation of international humanitarian law.

The non-governmental organisation said in a report that Israel continued to "systematically and deliberately block and undermine any meaningful international humanitarian response" in the Palestinian territory.

It alleged that Israel was defying an order by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in January to boost aid in Gaza, and was failing its legal responsibility to protect people in land it occupies.

"The ICJ order should have shocked Israeli leaders to change course, but since then conditions in Gaza have actually worsened," said Oxfam Middle East and North Africa director Sally Abi Khalil.

"Israeli authorities are not only failing to facilitate the international aid effort but are actively hindering it. We believe that Israel is failing to take all measures within its power to prevent genocide."

Oxfam said that "unjustifiably inefficient" inspection rules were causing aid trucks trying to get into Gaza to be stuck in queues for 20 days on average.

It said that Israeli authorities arbitrarily reject "dual-use" items – civilian goods that also have potential military use such as backup generators and torches.

"The list of rejected items is overwhelming and ever changing," Oxfam said.

It recalled that water bags and water testing kits in an Oxfam shipment were rejected with no reason provided, before later being permitted entry.

The group also denounced "attacks on aid workers, humanitarian facilities and aid convoys" and "access restrictions" for relief staff, particularly to northern Gaza.

Oxfam noted that 2,874 trucks entered Gaza in February, which represented "20 percent of the daily average" before the deadliest-ever Middle East conflict was triggered by Hamas on October 7.

Israel has defended its policies as it pursues its stated goal of destroying Hamas, saying the UN should send more aid to Gaza, pushing back on reports by the UN and NGOs that cumbersome Israeli inspections are blocking food and other essentials.

Hamas's unprecedented attack on October 7 resulted in about 1,160 deaths in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of official figures.

Israel's retaliatory military campaign has killed more than 31,000 people in Gaza, most of them women and children, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.

Fighters also seized about 250 Israeli and foreign hostages, dozens of whom were released during a week-long truce in November. Israel believes about 130 captives remain in Gaza including 32 presumed dead.

Some 1.7 million Palestinians, 75 percent of Gaza's population, are at risk of famine, according to Oxfam.

"The conditions we have observed in Gaza are beyond catastrophic," Oxfam said in its report.--AFP

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