ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 143

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30 protesters detained amid clashes at Kerem Shalom over aid to Gaza

Some 300 demonstrators try to block vehicles at crossing; IDF declares Nitzana crossing closed military zone over protests; 120 aid trucks manage to enter Gaza

Protesters detained amid clashes with Israeli police at Kerem Shalom over aid to Gaza. (via X; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Dozens of people attempting to prevent humanitarian aid from entering the Gaza Strip were detained by police during clashes at Israel’s Kerem Shalom Crossing to Gaza, on Wednesday.

Police said that some 300 people attended the protest, despite the military declaring the area a closed military zone after days of protests by Israelis hindered the entry of goods through the crossing.

They added that 30 protesters were detained for questioning after they began rioting and cursing security forces at the scene.

Footage showed scuffles between protesters and security forces, and a mounted officer running over one of the protesters.

The demonstrators oppose support for Gaza while hostages kidnapped during Hamas’s October 7 massacre remain in the enclave.

Yehuda Dee, the son of Lucy Dee and brother of Rina and Maia who were killed in a terror shooting in the Jordan Valley in April, was among those arrested, according to the Tzav 9 reservist protest group, an organizer of the protest, in a statement.

“Shame on the Israel Police and its leadership, that a bereaved brother was arrested just to allow the entry of aid to Hamas terrorists who murdered his family members. Shame,” it said in a statement.

“There is no logic to the entry of trucks directly into the hands of Hamas terrorists,” the group said in an earlier statement.

“We are prepared for the moment of truth together with thousands of supporters who demand a halt to supplies for Hamas. No aid should go through until the last of the hostages return,” the group stated.

“There is no assistance for murderers,” they said, vowing not to end their protests until the hostages are returned.

Israeli leaders say the aid is necessary to enable Israel to continue operating freely against Hamas, amid intense international pressure and a desire to prevent a humanitarian disaster in the war-torn territory.

One hundred and twenty aid trucks entered the southern Gaza Strip via the crossing since Wednesday morning, Ynet reported in the late afternoon.

An additional 52 trucks were inspected at the Nitzana border crossing between Israel and Egypt, and will enter Gaza via the Rafah crossing, the report added.

The Israel Defense Forces also announced a closed military zone at the Nitzana Border Crossing, since protesters began to demonstrate in the area to prevent aid destined for Gaza from entering Israel to be checked by authorities, following the order to close off Kerem Shalom.

The IDF said the chief of Southern Command, Maj. Gen. Yaron Finkelman, signed the order Tuesday night, meaning it is illegal for civilians to be in the area of the crossing, as well as the nearby Route 211.

Israeli demonstrators gather by the border fence with Egypt at the Nitzana border crossing to prevent aid from entering into the Gaza Strip, in southern Israel on January 30, 2024. (Menahem Kahana / AFP)

At Nitzana, aid enters Israel from Egypt to be checked, before it is sent back to Egypt to enter Gaza via the Rafah crossing.

Earlier Wednesday, the Choosing Life Forum of bereaved families filed a petition at the High Court of Justice against the military’s order to close off the Kerem Shalom crossing to civilians, claiming that the order was made for political reasons and must be canceled.

“Despite the difficult security situation Israeli citizens find themselves in, despite the cries of joy that were heard on the streets of Gaza when Israeli hostages were led humiliated and subjugated through Gaza City’s streets, the Israeli leadership has chosen in recent weeks, amid international pressure, to transfer supplies to the enemies in Gaza, under the guise of humanitarian aid,” the petition read.

File: Israeli protesters, including relatives of hostages held in Gaza since the October 7 attack by Hamas, wave flags and hold placards during a demonstration aimed at blocking aid trucks from entering the Palestinian territory, on the Israeli side of the Kerem Shalom border crossing with the southern Gaza Strip on January 29, 2024. (Menahem Kahana / AFP)

Large groups of activists, including some families of hostages being held by Hamas in Gaza, protested daily at the crossing last week, demanding that no aid be allowed to enter Gaza via Israel as long as the hostages remain in captivity.

After repeated attempts, the protesters succeeded at blocking at least some of the aid on Wednesday and did so again on Thursday, Friday, and Sunday, before the military order was handed down.

Hamas launched an unprecedented attack on October 7, murdering close to 1,200 people in Israel, most of them civilians, and taking another 253 hostage, 132 of whom remain captive in Gaza.

In response, Israel launched an extensive military campaign against the terrorist organization, and the government initially said no aid would be allowed into Gaza.

By the end of October, however, Israel was allowing humanitarian aid to enter the Strip through the Rafah crossing on the Gaza border with Egypt. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has since said multiple times that without minimal aid being given to Gaza, the IDF would be unable to complete its objectives in the war due to risks such as diseases.

File: An Egyptian truck carrying humanitarian aid undergoes security checks at the Israeli side of the Kerem Shalom border crossing before entering the southern Gaza Strip, on January 22, 2024. (Menahem KAHANA / AFP)

As part of a temporary truce deal in November, 105 hostages were released, and Israel promised to up the number of trucks carrying aid to 200 a day, but could not keep up with the demand with only one crossing open. As a result, Netanyahu announced in mid-December that Israel would reopen Kerem Shalom to allow more aid into the Strip.

Officials in US President Joe Biden’s administration, who have pushed Israel to allow aid for Gaza throughout the war, urged Israel to ensure that the crossing remained open and aid continued to make it through despite the civil disturbances.

Netanyahu repeated that the aid was essential to success in the war during a press conference on Saturday night, and added that officials were instructed to take care of the issue.

“I understand the families’ plight, but [giving aid to Gaza] is our policy,” he said.

Regardless, members of Netanyahu’s government expressed support for the protests, with far-right Otzma Yehudit MK Limor Son Har Melech joining the activists on Sunday after the military zone was announced, and MK Nissim Vaturi, from Netanyahu’s Likud party, telling Kol Chai radio that he too wanted to join them.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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