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UN agency says attempt to resume northern Gaza food deliveries 'largely unsuccessful'

FILE PHOTO: Palestinian children carry pots as they queue to receive food cooked by a charity kitchen, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip

ROME (Reuters) - The United Nations' food agency said it was "largely unsuccessful" in its attempt on Tuesday to resume deliveries to northern Gaza which is nearing famine.

The World Food Programme (WFP) had paused its deliveries on Feb. 20 due to precarious security conditions, with its convoys exposed to attacks by hungry mobs.

In a statement, the Rome-based agency said it despatched a 14-truck food convoy to northern Gaza, but it was turned back by the Israeli army after a three-hour wait at the Wadi Gaza checkpoint.

The trucks were rerouted and later stopped by a large crowd of desperate people who looted the food, taking around 200 tons, the WFP said.

"Although today's convoy did not make it to the north to provide food to the people who are starving, WFP continues to explore every possible means to do so," WFP Deputy Executive Director Carl Skau said.

Last week, a senior U.N. aid official told the Security Council that at least 576,000 people in the Gaza Strip - one quarter of the population - are one step away from famine.

Also last week, the Palestinian health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza said Israeli forces killed 118 people trying to get aid from a convoy near Gaza City with survivors saying they were shot at. Israel said most of those killed were trampled or run over during a panic.

(Reporting by Alvise Armellini, editing by David Gregorio)