The United Arab Emirates had been the main financier for World Central Kitchen’s aid efforts through the maritime corridor. Image Credit: WAM

Dubai: The dire humanitarian crisis in Gaza is set to worsen after charities suspended operations in the enclave in the aftermath of an Israeli attack on World Central Kitchen (WCK) convoy.

Also, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) on Wednesday said that Israel continues to block the agency from bringing food and other aid into northern Gaza.

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The strike on the WCK convoy killed citizens of Australia, Britain and Poland as well as Palestinians and a dual citizen of the US and Canada.

Following the attack, seaborne aid for Gaza is returning to Cyprus, officials said. “One third [of the aid cargo] was delivered, and two thirds is coming back.”

The United Arab Emirates, which had been the main financier for WCK’s aid efforts through the maritime corridor, said it was pausing humanitarian aid efforts though that channel pending further safety guarantees and a full investigation, a UAE official told Reuters.

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The strikes on WCK, UAE’s partner in the Amalthea Initiative, has prompted Dubai Cares’ strategic implementing partner, Anera, to pause its operations in Gaza.
An analysis released last week fuelled international concern by saying half of Gazans are feeling “catastrophic” hunger and projecting a possible famine in the territory’s north.

More than 2 million people in Gaza are now almost completely reliant on aid shipments almost six months into Israel’s devastating siege and invasion of the territory triggered by Hamas’ October 7 cross-border attack.

In Gaza, there were calls for stronger action to stop Israel continuing with a military campaign that local health authorities say has killed more than 32,000 people.

“This is a sign that the weapons provided by the British and American governments in support of the Israeli occupation army in weapons, money, and equipment do not differentiate between Palestinians and other nationalities,” said Marwan Al Hams, director of the Abu Youssef Al Najjar Hospital in Rafah.

The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification partnership estimated that 1.1 million people - half the population, according to UN figures - were facing dire conditions.

US President Joe Biden voiced strong criticism of Israel, saying it has not done enough to protect such workers. Biden said he was “outraged and heartbroken” by the death of the WCK workers, and said distributing aid in the Palestinian territory has been difficult “because Israel has not done enough to protect aid workers trying to deliver desperately needed help to civilians.”

Call for immediate truce

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday called the deaths “unconscionable” and said it highlighted the need for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

Pope Francis on Wednesday issued a fresh appeal for peace in Gaza, deploring the killing of aid workers.

“I express deep regret for the volunteers killed while they were engaged in distributing humanitarian aid in Gaza. I pray for them and their families,” Francis said during his weekly audience.

He renewed calls for an “immediate” Gaza ceasefire, the release of all Israeli hostages kidnapped by Palestinian militants Hamas, full access for humanitarian aid, and warned against any “irresponsible” regional widening of the conflict.

'This happens in war'

The killing of aid workers including a Polish national and the reaction of Israel’s prime minister have caused “understandable anger” and strained relations, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said on Wednesday.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday the airstrike was tragic and unintended, adding, “This happens in war.”

Israel’s ambassador to Poland Yacov Livne said in a post on social media platform X on Tuesday that the “extreme right and left” in Poland were accusing Israel of intentional murder, adding that “antisemites will always remain antisemites”.

Tusk wrote on X: “Mr. Prime Minister Netanyahu, Mr. Ambassador Livne, the vast majority of Poles showed full solidarity with Israel after the Hamas attack (on Oct. 7).

“Today you are putting this solidarity to a really hard test. The tragic attack on volunteers and your (Netanyahu’s) reaction arouse understandable anger.” Netanyahu also said Israel was conducting a thorough inquiry and would do everything to avoid a recurrence of the incident.

In a post on X following Tusk’s comments, Livne said Israel had “repeatedly expressed our deep regret, sorrow and condolences over the tragic loss of life of @WCKitchen workers”.

The mayor of the city of Przemysl in southeastern Poland identified the Polish volunteer who was killed as Damian Sobol.