Israeli official: 'The bottleneck is not on the Israeli side'

As flow of aid to Gaza dries up, UN blames ‘breakdown of law and order’

Data shows number of trucks entering Strip has slowed to nearly a quarter of January’s daily average; UNRWA says Hamas-run police stopped escorting convoys after Israeli strikes

File: Palestinian crowds struggle to buy bread from a bakery in Rafah, Gaza Strip, February 18, 2024. (AP Photo/Fatima Shbair)
File: Palestinian crowds struggle to buy bread from a bakery in Rafah, Gaza Strip, February 18, 2024. (AP Photo/Fatima Shbair)

The flow of aid entering Gaza from Egypt has almost dried up in the past two weeks, and a collapse in security has made it increasingly difficult to distribute the food that does get through, according to UN data and officials.

Daily figures show a precipitous drop in aid supplies since February 9 reaching Hamas-ruled Gaza, where the mostly displaced population of 2.3 million is facing crisis levels of hunger.

Before the war between Israel and Hamas, Gaza relied on 500 trucks with supplies entering daily, and even during intense fighting in January, around 200 aid trucks made it through on most days.

But according to the UN figures, from February 9-20, the daily average fell to just 57 trucks. On seven of those 12 days, 20 or fewer trucks made it through, including just four trucks on February 17.

Deliveries through the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza have been almost totally halted, and while more trucks have occasionally arrived through Israel’s Kerem Shalom crossing, they have frequently been disrupted by relatives of Israeli hostages and  protesters seeking to block deliveries. The crossing was closed between February 8-10 and February 15-17.

Israel, which checks all trucks entering Gaza from both crossings, has blamed the United Nations for the fall-off in deliveries and said it is prepared to speed up the clearance of aid.

Israeli demonstrators gather by the border fence with Egypt at the Nitzana border crossing in southern Israel on February 18, 2024, as they attempt to block humanitarian aid trucks from entering into Israel on their way to the Gaza Strip.(Gil Cohen-Magen/AFP)

“We are ready and willing to facilitate the entry of tens, if not hundreds of trucks every day,” Colonel Moshe Tetro, Head of Israel’s Coordination and Liasion Administration for Gaza, told a news briefing. “The bottleneck is not on the Israeli side.”

He said 450 trucks were waiting on the Palestinian side of the Kerem Shalom crossing with aid supplies for international groups to distribute in Gaza.

“If there would be sufficient and efficient work by the international community that is working inside Gaza, I think that the distribution will be much better.”

The United Nations has said it is becoming more difficult to distribute aid inside Gaza because of the collapse of security inside the Strip, where most residents are now hemmed into makeshift camps due to the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas, which was sparked by the terror group’s October 7 massacre.

“The IDF has a responsibility to facilitate humanitarian operations within Gaza. Aid piling up at the crossing is evidence of an absence of this enabling environment amid enormous needs,” said Eri Kaneko, a spokesperson for the UN humanitarian affairs office.

“The UN and our humanitarian partners have not been able to regularly pick up supplies from the crossing points due to safety concerns and a breakdown of law and order,” she said. “Despite this, our colleagues have been taking significant risks to sustain the delivery of humanitarian supplies essential to the survival of civilians.”

The Hamas-run Palestinian police force has stopped providing escorts for aid convoys after at least eight officers — among them Hamas operatives — were killed in Israeli strikes, said UNRWA Director of Communications Juliette Touma. Her remarks echoed comments last week by the top US diplomat involved in humanitarian assistance, who said the police escorts include Hamas members but also officers with no direct affiliation to the terror group.

A worker rests as displaced Palestinians receive food aid at the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) center in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on January 28, 2024. (AFP)

Inside Gaza, desperate residents have halted convoys to seize aid from trucks as footage has shown gunmen, believed to members of Hamas, steal trucks delivering humanitarian aid from Egypt.

Israel has also long said that Hamas stockpiled supplies and kept them from increasingly desperate civilians.

“In most cases, when food does get taken directly from convoys, it’s because of utter desperation, with people even eating it on the spot,” said Jonathan Fowler, a UNRWA spokesperson.

On Tuesday, the UN World Food Program said it was pausing limited deliveries to northern Gaza, just two days after they restarted after their convoys faced crowds trying to climb aboard trucks, gunfire in Gaza City, the seizure of flour and the beating of a truck driver.

In a statement regarding the decision to pause deliveries, the agency said that its convoy faced complete chaos and violence due to the collapse of civil order” and its teams reported witnessing “unprecedented levels of desperation.”

UNRWA has said it was last able to deliver aid to the north of the Gaza Strip on January 23.

Most Popular
read more: