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The first trucks carrying humanitarian aid were allowed to cross into Gaza from Egypt

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

And we turn now to events in Gaza. Trucks carrying food and medical supplies from the United Nations began to trickle through the Rafah crossing from Egypt into Gaza today. In the meantime, the situation inside Gaza continues to become more dire. People are running low on food, water and fuel. We're joined now by Hani Almadhoun. He's in the Washington, D.C. area with the U.S. affiliate of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. Mr. Almadhoun, thanks for being back with us.

HANI ALMADHOUN: Thanks for having me.

SIMON: And I must say, last - we spoke with you last week, and you told us about your family in Gaza. It's been a bad week - hasn't it? - for them and for many others.

ALMADHOUN: Yeah. Unfortunately, we just heard the news three of - about three hours ago. At least 10 family members I'm related to through my sister-in-law - they've been killed. And it's tragedy. It's never ending, and we have no time to mourn. And I'm here because this is the right thing to do, despite all the sadness and the heavy clouds of horrors we're seeing over Gaza. So I wanted to talk about anything you want to talk about despite the setbacks I know of personally and the heavy toll the civilians in Gaza are paying right now.

SIMON: Well, thank you very much for that. Can you help us understand why all the negotiations were so necessary, including a visit from President Biden, to get aid trucks in?

ALMADHOUN: Yeah. Those 20 aid trucks, honestly, it's an insult because, you know, Gaza usually consumed anywhere between 100 and 160 trucks a day of supplies and things. And the saddest thing, the most noticeable item on those aid relief trucks were burial clothes. So this is sad. Gaza's running away from burial clothes. Obviously, there is shortage in food. There is a lot of fear in Gaza that whatever is going in is not going to last for six hours for food because there is a whole distressful situation and people have not ate in a long time.

The commissioner general bravely have recognized the situation, acknowledged the passing of 17 UNRWA colleagues and shared that all of our buildings' coordinates are shared with the Israelis. And despite that, 35 of our buildings have been targeted, some completely destroyed. So it is just - it is, in a way, an effort to generate, in a way, good PR for certain parties. But it is nothing. And there is hundreds of trucks of aid - UNRWA's lining up, and other U.N. agencies, obviously. UNRWA's the largest U.N. agency in Gaza, but there are other agencies who work there, like the World Health Organization, UNICEF. Everybody's trying to help.

But ultimately, this is a humanitarian disaster. And if aid doesn't go in, you know, it is going to be a - it's going to be a starvation, it's already dehydration situation. It is a stressful time for everybody. The staff don't feel safe to distribute the food. I work and I raise money for UNRWA through UNRWA USA, and I can't even get food to my family. So you can imagine how chaotic the situation is. I know my colleagues are braving all of this, trying to keep people safe at shelters despite everything.

But, you know, it's not enough. I hope that the U.S. will do the right thing. This is the leader of the free world that is the largest funder of UNRWA, and all of a sudden, we feel abandoned in this war. And we hope that more supplies, more aid, medications - hospitals are running low. People are just...

SIMON: Yeah.

ALMADHOUN: ...You know, they see people who are hurt. They say, oh, we can't save this person. Go to the next one. So there is a lot of trauma going on right now. And the agencies - the U.N. agencies are trying to help. But 20 trucks - great, great start. But to be frank with you, this is nothing compared to what's needed.

There is no fuel allowed into Gaza. As you can imagine, it runs the hospitals. It runs all the water wells. People are drinking - 95% of the people in Gaza are drinking water that's not safe for human consumption. You can imagine, even after this war is over, we're going to have to deal with other diseases.

SIMON: Hani Almadhoun. Thank you very much, and our best wishes to your family. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.