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Report Confirms Israeli Forces Opened Fire On UN Aid Convoy Carrying Food To Gaza

'At a minimum it would look like a very serious violation of international humanitarian law' expert says

Report Confirms Israeli Forces Opened Fire On UN Aid Convoy Carrying Food To Gaza

Documents have recently come to light confirming that Israeli forces targeted a United Nations (UN) convoy laden with food supplies in Gaza on Feb. 5, prior to blocking the trucks from moving to the northern stretches of the territory where thousands of Palestinians face severe food shortages.

“A convoy that had food on it, heading to the northern parts of the Gaza Strip. That convoy on its way in what we call the middle areas, it got hit. One of the trucks carrying supplies was hit by Israeli naval fire,” Juliette Touma, global director of communications for United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), told CNN.

Though there were no casualties among the convoy’s personnel, the attack resulted in the destruction of vital supplies, predominantly wheat flour intended for bread production — a crucial need for the besieged Palestinian population.

Correspondence obtained by CNN show the convoy’s route was agreed upon in advance, prior to the strike, by the UN and the Israeli military. This coordination was part of a broader effort to ensure the safe passage of humanitarian aid through conflict zones, a practice grounded in the need to safeguard aid workers and their cargos from the perils of armed conflict.

However, this incident is not isolated. CNN reported that this is one of several instances where aid deliveries and storage facilities have come under fire since the onset of hostilities, raising serious concerns about the respect for international humanitarian norms and the protection of humanitarian aid operations in conflict settings.

Email correspondence between UNRWA and COGAT, the Israeli military agency overseeing Palestinian Territories, confirmed there was an agreement for the convoy to take the Al Rashid Road, the scene of the Israeli Navy’s military engagement.

“We share with the Israeli army the coordinates of the convoys, and the route of that convoy,” Touma said. “Only when the Israeli army gives us the okay, the green light, does UNRWA move. We don’t move without that coordination.”

The purpose of the coordination, she said, is to ensure aid convoys are not struck by military fire. That the intentional attack on a humanitarian convoy took place touches on the legal and ethical frameworks that govern armed conflict, and may constitute violations of international law, experts say.

“It’s really difficult to see how this could be a legal attack,” Janina Dill, co-director at Oxford University’s Institute for Ethics, Law and Armed Conflict, told CNN.

“At a minimum it would look like a very serious violation of international humanitarian law,” she said. “Whether it’s also criminal then depends on questions of intent, which is something that needs to be established in a court of law.”

The U.S. State Department called the strike “unacceptable” in a statement to CNN, stating that humanitarian assistance needs to reach civilians.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has not responded to CNN’s requests for comment on the incident.

Shortly after the convoy was hit, the UN warned that it has been prevented from getting an adequate supply of food into Gaza for the roughly 1.4 million people who are starving and desperate for assistance.

“We only managed four convoys in the month of January, that’s around 35 truckloads of food (and) enough for almost 130,000 people,” said Matthew Hollingworth, WFP Country Director for Palestine. “(It’s) really not enough to prevent a famine and we know levels of hunger in Gaza are getting at that level now.”

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