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Catholic Relief Services unable to provide aid to southern Gaza amid ongoing war

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A Catholic Relief Services (CRS) official told CNA this week that the organization has been unable to get humanitarian supplies through the southern Gaza Strip since early May and that it no longer has supplies in the warehouses in the area.

“Most of the aid crosses through Rafah, and the Rafah crossing has been closed since early May because of the military operations there,” spokeswoman Megan Gilbert told CNA in an email.

“We’ve not had any CRS goods enter the south half of Gaza since May 6,” she explained. “Not into Rafah or Kerem Shalom.”

“We are getting trucks (over 50 so far) into the north half of Gaza since Erez West opened,” she said. “Those trucks contained ready-to-eat food, hygiene kits, bedding kits, and emergency shelter items.”

CRS has served more than 750,000 people in the region since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war on Oct. 7, 2023, according to an April press release from the organization.

The aid group launched operational hubs in Rafah as well as in Deir al-Balah, a city in the center of the Gaza Strip, through which they provide shelter and hygiene supplies as well as cash and food parcels.

CRS has 83 staff members in Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza, including 44 in Gaza, according to a May 15 report shared with CNA. CRS staff members have left the evacuation area since Israel’s May 11 instruction to evacuate Rafah.

CRS continues to operate in Dier al-Balah while pausing operations in Rafah and northern Gaza. Limited access to supplies and fuel — as well as border closures — have constrained CRS’ humanitarian efforts, according to the report.

After Israel seized the Rafah crossing from Hamas on May 7, Egypt refused to move aid through the crossing unless it was under Palestinian control, according to the Times of Israel

Israel, Egypt, and the U.S. have since agreed to send aid via the Kerem Shalom crossing, where the borders of Israel, Egypt, and the Gaza Strip meet.

Israel moved into Rafah at the beginning of the month to target Hamas, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said before the military operation.

“We will enter Rafah because we have no other choice,” he said. “We will destroy the Hamas battalions there, we will complete all the objectives of the war, including the return of all our hostages.”

While aid has been coming into the region from around the world, according to a local report in Gaza and an Israeli defense official, the terrorist group Hamas is reportedly stealing supplies and controlling their distribution.

The U.S. recently attempted to deliver more than 1 million pounds of aid to Gaza via a $320 million floating pier that began operations two weeks ago and which is now in need of repairs after damage from rough weather.

The head of CRS, Sean Callahan, visited the Holy Land earlier this year and found that amid the violence “our teams were still able to register people to get supplies out to them.”

A representative of the organization told CNA in April that the group is “working hard to keep our team as safe as possible” and it remains “committed to doing everything we can to address the significant humanitarian needs of civilians in Gaza.”

This story was updated May 30, 2024, at 10:36 a.m. ET with additional quotes from CRS spokeswoman Megan Gilbert.

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Catholic Relief Services unable to provide aid to southern Gaza amid ongoing war