Israeli warplanes are continuing airstrikes on Gaza City, including Zeitoun neighbourhood, killing at least 153 Palestinians and wounding more than 60 in the past 24 hours.

The latest casualties bring the total number of Palestinians killed in Israeli attacks in Gaza since 7 October to 33,360, with 75,993 wounded, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry. The death toll includes more than 14,500 children and 9,560 women.

At least 7,000 additional people are missing, believed to be buried under the debris after six months of Israeli bombing.

Meanwhile, US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, during a Senate hearing, refuted allegations of genocide committed by Israel in Gaza. He stated that the United States lacks evidence to support such allegations. Austin’s remarks came in response to questioning by Republican Senator Tom Cotton, who raised concerns about accusations of “greenlighting genocide” against Israel.

Austin reiterated the US commitment to assisting Israel in defending its territory and people through security assistance. However, he did not provide further context regarding a specific event on 7 October, which he described as “absolutely horrible.”

The allegations of genocide against Israel stem from its war on Gaza, which has killed over 33,360 Palestinian since 7 October and caused the displacement of nearly the entire population of 2.3 million. Despite this, Israel denies committing genocide.

Critics have pointed to the significant military support provided by the United States to Israel, raising accusations of complicity in Israel’s actions against Gaza.

Amid Israel’s deadly onslaught on Gaza and continued blockade of essential aid, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, is playing a crucial role in providing humanitarian assistance to the 2 million people in the occupied enclave to prevent mass starvation. Despite its recent pledges to allow more aid for the people of Gaza who are on the brink of famine, Israel is obstructing UNRWA convoys to northern Gaza, according to UNRWA officials.

There has been concerns within the aid community regarding Israel’s attempts to shut UNRWA. There has been allegations that it is part of Israel’s strategy to starve the people in Gaza.

In response to Israel’s claim that 12 out of 13,000 UNRWA staff in Gaza were involved in an attack on Israel on 7 October, more than half of the 16 countries that suspended funding to UNRWA have already decided to resume funding.

The US Congress has passed legislation halting US funding to UNRWA until at least March 2025. The funding usually exceeds US$300 million annually. Germany has provided €45 million but has yet to allocate funds to UNRWA’s Gaza operations. Meanwhile, the UK remains undecided on whether to resume funding to UNRWA.

An upcoming report authored by Catherine Colonna, former French foreign minister, is expected to recommend clear procedures to ensure UNRWA’s neutrality rather than advocating for its closure.

There are fears that Israel aims to permanently remove UNRWA from Gaza, despite decisions on funding resumption and aid crossings. Israel alleges that UN agency has links with Hamas, the governing authority in Gaza since 2007. UNRWA maintains that it must maintain indirect links with Gaza’s de facto authorities to distribute aid, a practice common among UN aid agencies worldwide.

Reports suggest Israel intends to phase out UNRWA’s operations across Gaza, the West Bank, and Jerusalem. Sam Rose, with experience in Gaza, highlights increasing difficulties in East Jerusalem, including challenges obtaining visas and permits, restricted imports, and frozen bank accounts. He stresses the importance of not overlooking the situation in the West Bank amid attention on Gaza.

Following an intense phone call between US President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a record-breaking 419 trucks entered Gaza on Monday, marking the highest single-day entry since the conflict’s onset. However, Rose stresses that merely shutting down UNRWA, as proposed by some, isn’t a viable solution. Even if a new agency were to replace it, challenges in staffing, infrastructure, and network would persist, impacting essential services like education and healthcare.

Highlighting UNRWA’s unique role in delivering education and healthcare to hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, Rose urges the international community to view UNRWA as a long-term investment. Despite funding secured until May, UNRWA faces the pressing task of purchasing food for 1.1 million people to be distributed during the summer.