Aid trucks entering Gaza ‘at fairly good clip,’ says World Central Kitchen

Humanitarian group says it is getting food aid to its kitchens from Kerem Shalom to Khan Younis and Deir al Balah, but insists distribution and humanitarian situation still dire

Jeremy Sharon is The Times of Israel’s legal affairs and settlements reporter

World Central Kitchen staff distribute food boxes to Palestinians in Gaza amid the ongoing conflict and severe humanitarian situation in the territory.(Courtesy World Central Kitchen/
World Central Kitchen staff distribute food boxes to Palestinians in Gaza amid the ongoing conflict and severe humanitarian situation in the territory.(Courtesy World Central Kitchen/

The World Central Kitchen (WCK) organization said on Tuesday that it is bringing trucks of food aid into Gaza “at a fairly good clip” and is able to distribute them to its community kitchens in different areas of the territory through close coordination with the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) agency of the Defense Ministry.

World Central Kitchen’s Middle East Activation Manager John Torpey said some 100 trucks were brought in by the organization to Gaza last week. He said that different routes are used by WCK to get the aid from the Kerem Shalom goods crossing at the southern end of Gaza to Khan Younis and Deir Balah in southern and central Gaza.

Torpey, who was speaking in an online press conference, said that WCK was in “constant communication” with COGAT to coordinate the distribution of humanitarian aid within Gaza, something that has become a critical concern in ensuring that the Palestinian population in the territory is able to access the food that is brought through the crossings.

United Nations agencies, including UNRWA and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), have alleged that although Israel is facilitating the entry of humanitarian aid into Gaza, actually distributing it to the local population from the Gazan side of the border crossings is very difficult due to the ongoing hostilities, a state of affairs that they say is contributing to ongoing food insecurity in the territory.

On May 31, OCHA said that aid agencies were “struggling to access humanitarian aid, particularly from Kerem Shalom crossing, due to active conflict, impassable roads, unexploded ordnance, fuel shortages, delays at checkpoints and Israeli restrictions.”

COGAT has insisted for months, however, that distribution is possible despite the fighting and has repeatedly called on UNRWA and OCHA to increase their distribution activities and coordinate with the agency in order to ensure the aid gets to Gaza civilians.

A truck carrying humanitarian aid for the Gaza Strip crosses the Kerem Shalom border crossing between southern Israel and Gaza, May 30, 2024. (Jack Guez/AFP)

Torpey said during Tuesday’s press conference that WCK had been in very close contact with COGAT and the Israel Defense Forces to coordinate the movement of aid convoys from Kerem Shalom and ensure their safety and the safety of their staff.

On April 1, seven WCK employees were killed in an airstrike by the IDF as they were accompanying an aid convoy in Gaza. Israel said it was an unintentional incident caused by a mistaken determination that Hamas operatives were in the convoy.

WCK halted its operations in Gaza as a result, but resumed them on April 29.

“While there is an invasion going on, there are different routes that we are using to get from Kerem Shalom to our warehouses in Khan Younis or Deir al-Balah,” said Torpey.

“We are moving trucks in fairly quickly, we’re moving them through different routes to get them to where they need to get to — our community kitchens and kitchens.”

WCK has different methods of food distribution and provision, including through large-scale kitchens providing large numbers of people with meals as well as smaller “community kitchens,” which deal with two to three thousand meals at a time.

WCK currently has two large kitchens operating in the IDF-designated humanitarian zone of al-Muwasi in southwest Gaza and another in Deir al-Balah in central Gaza. There are 70 community kitchens, 65 of which are in daily operation.

It also provides food boxes especially for Gazans evacuating from different regions due to the fighting.

World Central Kitchen staff prepare food for Palestinians in Gaza amid the ongoing conflict and severe humanitarian situation in the territory. (Courtesy: World Central Kitchen/

Torpey said that since WCK restarted operations on April 29 it has provided fully 6.4 million meals of different kinds, and is currently providing 250,000 meals a day.

Most of WCK’s kitchens are in the Khan Younis, Dier al-Balah and al Muwasi areas at present, he added, noting that the southern city of Rafah, where the IDF is currently operating, is “mostly empty at the moment” after close to a million Palestinians fled due to the heavy fighting there.

“For the most part, we’ve had a steady influx of our trucks able to get in… It is up and down, but we are able to get trucks through. We’re able to bring in truckloads of food at a pretty good clip right now,” said Torpey.

He said that getting the trucks to their destinations can be problematic due to the fact that there are “are millions of hungry desperate people” and because of “the sheer number of people on the streets.”

But he said the organization has “done a really good job of being able to get a good supply chain from Deir al-Balah and Khan Younis.”

He said that WCK was “constantly talking to COGAT” and that the organization also spoke directly to the IDF particularly when trying to move convoys of aid trucks to collect food and equipment from Kerem Shalom.

“We’re coordinating with them to make sure that the routes are clear, that they are aware of where our trucks are moving so that they know where we’re going, we felt like that’s very important to ensure the safety of our people, so we are in constant communications with them,” said Torpey.

Asked if there was famine in the Gaza, he said, “I think yes, there are some areas where food is not getting to, there are a lot of areas where people are struggling to find clean water, a lot of areas where people are struggling to find food,” although he said this impressions was not based on his personal experience.

Displaced Palestinians line up to receive food in Rafah, on the southern Gaza Strip, on May 19, 2024. (AFP)

Shimon Freedman, a spokesperson for COGAT, told The Times of Israel on Tuesday that in the week beginning on May 26, it facilitated 229 “coordinations” for the movement of humanitarian aid in Gaza, meaning operations to enable the collection and delivery of aid from the crossing points to their destinations within the territory. Each coordination typically involves multiple trucks moving in a convoy, Freedman said.

Freedman said that Israel had increased the manpower for facilitating the transfer of goods, adding inspection machinery at the goods crossings, and thereby increased the capacity of what can be transferred into Gaza every day.

He accused the UN agencies of failing to do likewise.

“Collecting and distributing aid in a warzone is challenging and we don’t refute it, that’s why we work closely with aid organizations to coordinate the provision of aid, we are more than willing to work with UN organizations and coordinate additional convoys so that aid can get to where it needs to, wherever that may be,” said Freedman.

He said, as COGAT has insisted for months, that there are hundreds of truckloads worth of aid at the Gazan side of Kerem Shalom waiting to be picked up, but that the UN agencies have failed to collect it.

OCHA, however, described a dire humanitarian situation in southern Gaza in its June 3 update. It cited comments by the World Food Program’s Country Director in Palestine Matthew Hollingworth, who said on May 31 that there were only six functional bakeries in Deir al Balah and Khan Younis, and that all bakeries in Rafah had ceased operations due to a lack of fuel.

“The Israeli incursion in Rafah is having a devastating impact on civilians and humanitarian operations. Adults and children are beyond exhausted from constant displacement, hunger, and fear,” the World Food Programme said on May 30.

“They are desperate for the war to end – as are humanitarian workers on the ground, who are largely displaced and dispersed along with the people they are meant to serve.”

In OCHA’s May 15 update, it said that “humanitarian aid missions” to facilitate the provision of aid in Gaza “continue to encounter varying levels of facilitation and hindrance.” It said that 59 percent of humanitarian aid missions to northern Gaza were facilitated by Israeli authorities, while others were delayed for various reasons, although it stated that only eight percent of such missions were denied approval.

According to OCHA 2,790 trucks were distributed in Gaza in May due to a severe slowdown following the commencement of the IDF’s Rafah operation, as well as several attacks on Kerem Shalom, which led to its closure for several days.

Fully 5,777 trucks were distributed in April, OCHA says.

COGAT pointed out, however, that there are vastly larger numbers of trucks entering than being distributed by the UN agencies, and that the distribution numbers are themselves far higher.

According to its figures, 5,258 trucks entered Gaza through Kerem Shalom and Erez in the north in May, the highest tally for any month since the war began. And in the week from May 27 to June 2, COGAT said there were over 1,006 collections from those crossings.

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