G7 leaders said Friday the UN Palestinian refugee agency must be allowed to work unhindered in war-torn Gaza, in a statement at the end of their talks in Italy.

"We agree it is critical that UNRWA and other UN organisations and agencies' distribution networks be fully able to deliver aid to those who need it most, fulfilling their mandate effectively," the Group of Seven nations said.

They called for all parties to facilitate "rapid and unimpeded passage of humanitarian relief for civilians in need" in Gaza, particularly women and children.

"Securing full, rapid, safe, and unhindered humanitarian access in all its forms — consistent with international humanitarian law, and through all relevant land crossing points, including the Rafah crossing, through maritime delivery routes, including through Ashdod Port — and throughout all of Gaza remains an absolute priority," they said.

UNRWA, which co-ordinates nearly all aid to Gaza, has been in crisis since January, when Israel accused about a dozen of its 13,000 Gaza employees of involvement in the October 7 Hamas attack.

That prompted many governments, including top donor the US, to suspend funding to the agency, threatening its efforts to deliver aid in Gaza, although several have since resumed payments.

An independent review of UNRWA, led by French former foreign minister Catherine Colonna, found some "neutrality-related issues" but said Israel had yet to provide evidence for its main allegations.

In a draft statement, the G7 leaders repeated concern at the "unacceptable number of civilian casualties" in the Israeli war on Gaza, now into its ninth month. They again endorsed a truce and hostage release deal.

Israel's offensive has killed at least 37,266 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to the Hamas-ruled territory's health ministry.

Reuters writes: Supplies of food to southern Gaza are at risk after Israel extended its military operations and those displaced by the offensive there face a public health crisis, a senior UN official said yesterday.

While hunger and the risk of famine has been most acute in northern Gaza in recent months, the situation is now deteriorating in the south, said Carl Skau, deputy director of the UN World Food Programme.

The main pipeline for aid earlier in the eight-month-old war was from Egypt into southern Gaza, but this was largely cut off when Israel expanded its campaign in the city of Rafah, where much of Gaza's population was sheltering, from early May.

"We had stocked up before the operation in Rafah so that we had put food into the hands of people, but that's beginning to run out and we don't have the same access that we need, that we used to have," Skau said after a two-day trip to Gaza.

When Israel advanced in Rafah, many of those who had taken refuge there were displaced again northwards and towards an evacuation zone in Al-Mawasi, an area on the coast.

"It's a displacement crisis that brings a protection catastrophe really, that a million or so people who have been pushed out of Rafah are now really crammed into a small space along the beach," said Skau.

"It's hot, the sanitation situation is just terrible. We were driving through rivers of sewage. And it's a public health crisis in the making."

Distribution of aid has been hampered by military operations, delayed Israeli authorisations and increasing lawlessness within Gaza.

Skau said that although more food was reaching northern Gaza, basic healthcare, water and sanitation was needed to "turn the curve in the north on famine completely". Israel needed to let more healthcare goods into Gaza, he said.
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