Is Israel meeting promise to let more aid into Gaza? (2024)

ByJemma Crew & Tom Spender,BBC News

Is Israel meeting promise to let more aid into Gaza? (1)Is Israel meeting promise to let more aid into Gaza? (2)Reuters

Israel says it is building a new land crossing into northern Gaza, where starvation is most acute, after previously promising to open the Erez crossing. The new crossing would handle up to 50 aid trucks a day and the first trucks have already crossed it, Israeli officials say.

Israel has also said it will allow the Ashdod deep water port a short distance to the north to be used as well as allowing more aid from Jordan to enter via the Kerem Shalom crossing in southern Gaza.

On Wednesday, 10 April, Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant spoke of gradually increasing Gaza aid deliveries to pre-war levels of 500 trucks a day.

The number of trucks entering Gaza rose and then fell back over the course of the week, with just 147 trucks entering Gaza on Thursday.

It follows the Israeli military's killing of seven aid workers on 1 April, which prompted the US to tell Israel to prevent civilian harm and humanitarian suffering if it wanted to maintain US support.

Israel imposed a siege on Gaza after Hamas attacked nearby Israeli communities, killing about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking about 250 to Gaza as hostages. It has hit Gaza with an aerial and ground campaign that has killed more than 33,000 people, mostly civilians according to the Hamas-run health authority.

Israeli authorities have since allowed some aid in, but the UN and aid agencies say some children have died from malnutrition.

On Wednesday USAID administrator Samantha Power said parts of Gaza were already under famine conditions.

How many trucks are going in now?

The number of trucks carrying food and other aid entering Gaza increased - but has since decreased again.

On 8 April, 419 aid trucks went in, according to the Israeli authorities, including 330 trucks carrying food - more than double the average 140 food trucks a day in March.

However, UN officials told the BBC the 8 April figure was in fact 223, less than half the daily number it says is required as a minimum to stem the crisis.

UN officials have told the BBC that the discrepancy is because Israeli screening requirements mean trucks are often only half full. After border checks, goods are moved onto a new set of vetted trucks to travel on into Gaza, which are filled nearer to capacity.

On Friday Cogat, the Israeli body that coordinates government activities in the occupied territories, said just 147 trucks containing aid entered Gaza, while 208 including just 112 containing food were distributed inside Gaza.

They included an undisclosed number of food trucks that entered through the new border crossing to northern Gaza, which Israeli media reported was near the Zikim kibbutz, to the west of the Erez crossing.

Is Israel meeting promise to let more aid into Gaza? (3)Is Israel meeting promise to let more aid into Gaza? (4)

The Israeli military said the trucks had been accompanied by Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers.

On Friday Philip Lazzarini, head of the UN's Palestinian refugee agency, UNRWA, said the increase in aid was "not yet tangible, sustained or uninterrupted".

Blame game over violence and starvation

Humanitarian agencies, Israel's allies and other countries have accused Israel of not doing enough to ensure that food gets to those who need it. Some have accused Israel of using starvation as a weapon of war.

All aid for Gaza is subject to strict Israeli security checks aimed at preventing anything that could be used by Hamas from entering. But aid groups say these are complex and arbitrary, causing major delays.

Israel has denied impeding the entry of aid to Gaza and accuses aid organisations of failing to distribute it. On Thursday Cogat said the content of hundreds of aid trucks was waiting to be picked up inside Gaza and said: "UN, do your job. The bottlenecks are not on the Israeli side."

As conditions have deteriorated, the delivery of aid inside Gaza has also been accompanied by deadly violence.

In one incident, the Israeli military killed seven aid workers working for World Central Kitchen (WCK), a charity that Israel was working with to distribute aid coming in by boat from Cyprus. Israel apologised and took action against the unit involved.

There have been regular reports of shooting at Palestinians gathering to receive the little aid that has arrived in northern Gaza. The Hamas-run ministry of health in Gaza and local Palestinians have accused Israeli forces of firing on desperate people. In the bloodiest incident, more than 100 people were killed on 29 February when a convoy arrived at al-Rashid street in Gaza City.

Israel has denied involvement in the deaths, saying Palestinians have died in crushes, been run over by trucks and been shot by armed Palestinians, and that when Israeli troops have opened fire it has been at people they have deemed "suspects".

Israel has banned UNRWA from delivering aid to northern Gaza over allegations it made that some UNRWA staff took part in the 7 October Hamas attack. Cogat said Israel would work with organisations that "are not involved in terror".

The Crisis Group think tank has described Israel's approach to aid distribution as a "fiasco", accusing it of "failing to coordinate military with humanitarian action". It also said Israel was attempting to work around the international aid system and instead use aid convoys as a way of trying to build a network of players to administer Gaza after the war.

"It directs aid to big families who agree to embrace its agenda, while targeting those who refuse," the think tank said.

The UN's most senior human rights official, Volker Türk, said in a BBC interview recently that Israel bore significant blame, and that there was a "plausible" case that Israel was using starvation as a weapon of war in Gaza.

Mr Türk, who is the UN high commissioner for human rights, said that if intent was proven, that would amount to a war crime.

Israel's Economy Minister Nir Barkat dismissed Mr Türk's warnings as "total nonsense - a totally irresponsible thing to say".

What is Ashdod port and how will it help?

Ashdod port, 32km (20 miles) north of Gaza, is one of Israel's three main cargo ports and can handle more than 1.5 million containers a year.

However, there have been no reports of aid shipments for Gaza being received at Ashdod. On Wednesday Israel's Channel 12 reported that no preparations had been made to open Ashdod to humanitarian shipments.

Because not enough aid has been getting into Gaza by land, countries have been trying alternative routes via the skies and sea - but these too have been beset by problems.

Of the two schemes to get food and other aid into Gaza by sea, only one has begun operation and it has now been paused after the Israeli military attacked WCK, the aid agency that was unloading and distributing the aid from a jetty it had constructed from rubble.

Is Israel meeting promise to let more aid into Gaza? (5)Is Israel meeting promise to let more aid into Gaza? (6)

Last month, the first vessel to reach Gaza under the scheme arrived from Cyprus - the nearest EU country to Gaza - towing a barge carrying about 200 tonnes of food provided by WCK.

By late March, WCK boss José Andrés said that 67 WCK kitchens were operating in Gaza, feeding 350,000 people a day.

Meanwhile, a separate US military plan is in train, with a US navy ship on its way carrying materials to build a floating dock and pier, to enable supplies on far larger cargo ships to get ashore.

According to the US defence department, it will mean two million meals a day could enter Gaza. But it is not expected to be ready for months.

Resorting to air drops

Is Israel meeting promise to let more aid into Gaza? (7)Is Israel meeting promise to let more aid into Gaza? (8)Reuters

The US, Jordan, Egypt, France, the Netherlands and Belgium are among the countries to have dropped aid into Gaza, but aid groups say the technique is a last resort that can't on its own meet the need.

At least 20 Palestinians are reported to have been killed during air drops - five when a parachute on an aid package failed to open and the crate fell on people waiting below, and the others when aid packages fell in the sea and desperate people drowned while trying to retrieve them.

Air forces such as the UK's RAF normally drop aid at an altitude as low as 400ft (120m), but the Israelis have stipulated they must do so no lower than 2,000ft (610m). That means the parachutes have a long time to get blown off course by the wind and is why some airdrops in recent weeks have landed in the sea.

A C-130 transport plane can carry 21 tons of aid - about the same quantity as can be carried by a single truck. There is also no way of organising the distribution on the ground.

The first aid drop by the US on 3 March, carried out jointly with Jordan, contained enough food for more than 38,000 meals. On 11 April, US Central Command, or Centcom, said the US had dropped 855 tons of humanitarian assistance in total.

First Gaza aid ship sets off from Cyprus
Inside the US plan to get food into Gaza by sea
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Why food airdrops into Gaza are controversial

Israel-Gaza war


Palestinian territories

Humanitarian aid

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