Defense source: Uncoordinated deliveries 'will be thwarted'

Biden speaks with Netanyahu, says Israel to allow ‘continued flow’ of aid into Gaza

US president also holds call about Israel-Hamas war with Western leaders, who reiterate Jewish state’s right to self-defense while saying it must protect civilian lives

US President Joe Biden (L) meets with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv on October 18, 2023, (Brendan Smialowski / AFP)
US President Joe Biden (L) meets with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv on October 18, 2023, (Brendan Smialowski / AFP)

The White House said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to allow the “continuous flow” of international aid into Gaza from Egypt during a phone call Sunday with US President Joe Biden.

There was no immediate confirmation from the Israeli side, but Netanyahu’s office said last week that his war cabinet agreed to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza through Egypt.

Twenty trucks of aid entered Saturday and roughly 15 more entered Sunday, confirmed earlier by the Israeli Defense Ministry.

The White House said Biden also “expressed appreciation for Israel’s support in helping to accommodate the release” of two American hostages who were released on Friday, and discussed ongoing efforts to release the remaining hostages, during the call with Netanyahu.

The announcement was slammed by National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, a far-right member of the security cabinet.

“Any agreement of ‘continuous aid to Gaza’ that doesn’t include freeing all our hostages is just a continuation of the concept that led us to where we are now,” Ben Gvir wrote on X.

“Humanitarian [aid] only in exchange for freeing all the hostages,” he added.

In an apparent response to Ben Gvir, the Prime Minister’s Office reiterated that Israel will not provide any aid to Gaza and will prevent unmonitored shipments of goods from entering the Strip.

A truck carrying humanitarian aid for the Gaza Strip crosses the Rafah border gate in Rafah, Egypt, October 22, 2023. (AP Photo/Mohammed Asad)

Besides his conversation with Biden, Netanyahu held phone calls on Sunday with French President Emmanuel Macron, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and Dutch Premier Mark Rutte. Both Macron and Rutte are expected to make trips to Israel on Tuesday.

Netanyahu’s office said that in all the conversations, the prime minister stressed Israel is “determined to eliminate Hamas’s military and governing capabilities,” and also said that “Israel’s victory over Hamas would be a victory for the entire world.”

Biden, meanwhile, discussed the Israel-Hamas war with leaders of major Western powers, according to the White House.

The call included the leaders Canada, France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom, who together with Biden issued a joint statement stressing their support for Israel’s right to defend itself against Hamas while calling on Jerusalem to protect civilian lives.

“The leaders reiterated their support for Israel and its right to defend itself against terrorism and called for adherence to international humanitarian law, including the protection of civilians,” said Biden, Macron, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak following a joint phone call they held earlier today.

The leaders “welcomed the release of two hostages and called for the immediate release of all remaining hostages. They committed to close coordination to support their nationals in the region, in particular those wishing to leave Gaza,” said the statement organized by the US.

It was the second joint statement in support of Israel that Biden has led with Western leaders since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war following the terror group’s devastating assault from Gaza on October 7.

“The leaders welcomed the announcement of the first humanitarian convoys to reach Palestinians in need in Gaza and committed to continue coordinating with partners in the region to ensure sustained and safe access to food, water, medical care, and other assistance required to meet humanitarian needs.”

“The leaders committed to continue close diplomatic coordination, including with key partners in the region, to prevent the conflict from spreading, preserve stability in the Middle East, and work toward a political solution and durable peace,” the statement added.

Photographs of people killed, missing or abducted in the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7 are displayed on empty seats in an exhibit held under the motto “UNITED AGAINST TERRORISM” in the Smolarz Auditorium at Tel Aviv University, October 22, 2023, in Tel Aviv. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)

Earlier, the military’s liaison to the Palestinians confirmed Israel allowed the entry of humanitarian aid to Gaza via Egypt on Sunday, following requests by the Biden administration.

“At the request of the American administration and in accordance with the instructions of the political echelon, humanitarian aid from the United Nations containing only water, food, and medical equipment was brought into the southern Gaza Strip today, through the Rafah crossing in Egypt,” the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) said in a statement.

“All the equipment was checked by Israeli security officials before entering Gaza,” COGAT added.

A defense source said that Israel will allow the entry of food, water, and medical supplies — but not fuel — to enter southern Gaza from Egypt, for Palestinian civilians of the area and those who have evacuated there, as long as it does not reach the Hamas terror group.

“Any other supply attempt that is not coordinated and approved by Israel, will be thwarted,” the source warned.

This aerial view shows humanitarian aid trucks arriving at a storage facility in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on October 21, 2023, after having crossed through the Rafah border from Egypt. (Belal Al Sabbagh/AFP)

On Saturday, Israel similarly denied that aid entering Gaza was not checked for arms before going in.

Cargo planes and trucks have been bringing humanitarian aid to the Egyptian side of Rafah for days, but until Saturday none had been delivered to Gaza.

Biden had pushed for the trucks to be allowed to pass into Gaza during his solidarity visit to Israel on Wednesday.

Biden had said the first 20 trucks would be a test of a system for distributing aid without allowing Hamas to benefit, with UN agencies set to distribute it on the Gaza side of the border, but warned that if Hamas “doesn’t let it get through or just confiscates it, then it’s going to end.”

Emanuel Fabian and agencies contributed to this report.

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