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Looming Rafah incursion would 'break' Gaza aid distribution, UN says

Jamie McGoldrick, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator in the Palestinian Territories speaks during an interview with Reuters in Gaza City

GENEVA (Reuters) - The United Nations humanitarian coordinator said on Monday an Israeli assault on Rafah would leave Gaza aid distribution "broken" as the organisation would be unable to prepare enough supplies for the already displaced people fleeing the area.

Speaking to reporters in Geneva via videolink from Jerusalem, Jamie McGoldrick said the U.N. humanitarian body could not plan its Gaza aid operation for more than two or three days ahead because of conditions he described as uncertain and unstable.

"It would be a really difficult scenario for us to envisage the possibility of hundreds of thousands of people being forced from Rafah because of the incursion," he said.

"We are not in a position to contingency plan that. We're not in a position to pre-position shelter, material, food, medical supplies and especially water... It will be a real problem for us."

Defying international calls to halt its military operation, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pledged to push into Rafah on the southern tip of the Gaza Strip, where more than half of its 2.3 million residents have been sheltering in makeshift tents to escape the Israeli assault farther north.

"If there was to be an incursion, that (aid) system we have, which is already precarious and intermittent, would then be broken," said McGoldrick.

Extreme food shortages in parts of Gaza have already far exceeded famine levels, and mass death is now imminent without an immediate ceasefire, the global hunger monitor said on Monday.

Israel has said it will opening more routes by land, as well as allowing sea shipments and air drops. The first boat carrying aid arrived last week.

Aid agencies say they still cannot get enough supplies through or distribute them safely, especially in the north, and that access and security are Israel's responsibility.

(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber and Emma Farge; Editing by and Alex Richardson)