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Looting in Gaza has led to skyrocketing food prices


Back in Gaza, it's been almost two weeks since the Israeli military announced a daytime pause in fighting along a stretch of road in the region. The military says the pause was put in place to allow for much-needed aid to be delivered. But aid groups say that they've barely been able to take advantage of it because of a lack of security on the ground. NPR's Kat Lonsdorf reports from Tel Aviv with NPR's Anas Baba in Southern Gaza.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Non-English language spoken).

KAT LONSDORF, BYLINE: NPR's producer in Gaza, Anas Baba, drives along the Salah al-Din Road in Rafah. It's the main road from the Kerem Shalom border crossing - one of the only entry points for both aid and commercial goods into Gaza right now. Israel's daytime, quote, "tactical pause" is along this approximately seven-mile stretch.

Anas films on his phone out the window. His friend is at the wheel. Strewn about the street are ripped open, empty bags of flour and grain, puffs of white and brown against the black asphalt.

A truck drives by in the opposite direction. A young man stands on top of a pile of boxes on the truck bed, swinging a wooden two-by-four over his head. Another young man hangs off the side, pumping his fist in the air, and one more crouches on the cabin of the truck.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: (Non-English language spoken).

LONSDORF: Anas' friend yells at him to stop filming, put his phone down. It's dangerous. They could be armed looters.


JONATHAN FOWLER: One of the big challenges worsening in the - inside the Gaza Strip is the breakdown of law and order on the ground.

LONSDORF: Jonathan Fowler is a spokesperson for the U.N. Office of Palestinian Affairs, one of the aid agencies trying to take advantage of the pause in fighting and distribute aid inside Gaza. But he said it's been nearly impossible. The road is completely lawless.

FOWLER: This is why we're still trying to carry out assessments about how this will work.

LONSDORF: There's a perfect storm in Gaza right now, a severe humanitarian crisis mixed with massive displacement and a lack of local security. The Israeli military has killed many members of Gaza's police force and clan leaders. Some have called what's happening looting, but as Fowler points out...

FOWLER: You know, in any situation of social breakdown anywhere in the world, there's this line between, you know, what is criminality, what is desperation?

LONSDORF: The Israeli military has placed much of the blame about lack of aid distribution on aid groups, saying it's their job. But international humanitarian law requires occupying forces - Israel, in this case - to create a system to ensure medical and food aid are reaching the population.

There isn't a lot of aid getting in, but commercial goods are, often guarded by armed gangs. At a nearby market in the city of Khan Younis, makeshift stalls sell fresh fruit, vegetables, packaged, cheese and yogurt. The problem is it's all wildly expensive, as much as 10 times more than it was before the war, bought and sold on the Black market multiple times. People can't afford it. Many no longer have income or savings. Ibrahim Abu Imdokh (ph) is a trader at the market.

IBRAHIM ABU IMDOKH: (Non-English language spoken).

LONSDORF: "This is a crime," he says about the prices he has to charge.

He says he only marks them up a tiny bit - just enough to make a small profit. He says he watches all day as parents can't afford food for their hungry children who are excited to finally see markets full again.

ABU IMDOKH: (Non-English language spoken).

LONSDORF: "This is what they want," he says, referring to Israel. "They want us to fight each other. If the aid cannot get in, the thieves and looters win, and Israel wins, too," he says.

With Anas Baba reporting in Gaza, I'm Kat Lonsdorf, NPR News, Tel Aviv. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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