For second day in a row, protesters block aid reaching Gaza from Israel

Families of hostages among those at Kerem Shalom border crossing, urging government to not allow any supplies in until captives held by terrorists are freed

Protesters block the Kerem Shalom border crossing to prevent humanitarian aid trucks from entering the Gaza Strip. At center is Tsufit Libman, whose brother-in-law Elyakim Libman is a hostage, and at right is Danny Elgarat, whose brother Itzik Elgarat is a hostage. (Screen capture/ X. Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Protesters block the Kerem Shalom border crossing to prevent humanitarian aid trucks from entering the Gaza Strip. At center is Tsufit Libman, whose brother-in-law Elyakim Libman is a hostage, and at right is Danny Elgarat, whose brother Itzik Elgarat is a hostage. (Screen capture/ X. Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

A small group of protesters, including relatives of hostages held in the Gaza Strip, demonstrated at the Kerem Shalom border crossing on Thursday to picket humanitarian trucks going into the Palestinian enclave while demanding that aid be cut off until the captives held by terrorists in the territory are freed.

Part of the group was initially stopped by a roadblock but they made their way through, walking several kilometers toward the crossing for a second day in a row.

Tsufit Libman, sister-in-law of captive Elyakim Libman, called the delivery of aid to Gaza while the hostages are still captive a “moral failure.”

“While we don’t know where our families are and if they are alive, they [Gazans] are getting humanitarian aid,” she said and accused Palestinians in Gaza of “covering up crimes” and assisting Hamas.

She urged the government to be firm in not allowing any humanitarian aid until the hostages are freed.

Dani Elgarat, whose brother Itzik Elgarat was injured and kidnapped on October 7, said the protesters wanted to demonstrate to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that “he needs to show courage and to stand up to the Americans and tell them…not a single drop of water until I see our captives coming home.”

He called for others to “come to the border crossing and stop this humanitarian aid with your bodies.”

Trucks with aid arrive at the Gazan side of the Kerem Shalom border crossing, in the southern Gaza Strip, on January 17, 2024. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

Elgarat asserted that the hostages are not receiving any of the humanitarian aid that is entering Gaza, echoing media reports that there is no certainty that essential medical supplies that were supposed to reach them actually did.

“There are no visits by the Red Cross, no food, medications, signs of life, nothing humanitarian is happening to our captives,” he said.

It was not immediately clear what impact the protest had on truck movements. On Wednesday the demonstrators held up over 100 trucks, some of which were eventually diverted to an alternative entry point in Egypt.

Following the protest, Biden administration officials were pressing Israel to ensure the Kerem Shalom border crossing with Gaza remains open, the Kan public broadcaster reported.

According to the report, the US officials called for the crossing to continue operating as usual and said Israel must ensure aid continues flowing into Gaza, without specifically referring to the protests.

The protests underlined the government’s narrowing space to maneuver as it faces growing international pressure to allow more humanitarian relief in Gaza, coupled with intense domestic pressure to both secure the release of the hostages and deliver military achievements in the protracted and increasingly deadly campaign.

They also came amid unconfirmed reports in the media of progress in indirect talks between Israel and Hamas on a ceasefire and second prisoner swap. The government is under considerable pressure, which manifests itself in weekly rallies and other actions, to prioritize the release of the more than 130 Israelis still being held hostage by Hamas over its military push to dismantle the terror group.

An earlier exchange of hostages for Palestinian prisoners took place over a weeklong truce in late November and early December.

Women protest for the release of Israeli hostages held by Hamas terrorists in Gaza, in Rosh Pina, January 24, 2024. (Ayal Margolin/Flash90)

On October 7 Palestinian terror group Hamas carried out a massive, devastating cross-border attack on Israel that killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians. The terrorists who invaded southern Israel from the Gaza Strip also abducted 253 people who were taken as hostages to the coastal enclave. More than half are still captive.

Israel responded with a military offensive to destroy Hamas, remove it from power in Gaza, and release the hostages. The campaign has faced increasing international criticism amid a mounting Palestinian death toll and a broad humanitarian crisis in the war-torn Strip, pressure that has seen Israel increase the humanitarian supplies it is allowing in during the fighting.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has defended the decision to allow aid into Gaza.

“The humanitarian aid is vital for ensuring international support,” he said at a press conference in November. “Without it, even our good friends would have trouble supporting us over time.”

On Sunday, Ela Ben Ami, whose father Ohad was abducted from Kibbutz Be’eri on October 7 and is presumed to be held hostage in Gaza, asked Netanyahu during a meeting with relatives of hostages why he is allowing aid into Gaza that she said may be used to sustain Hamas’s war effort. She later said that, at the meeting, Netanyahu had assured her that Hamas was taking at most 10% of the aid.

Multiple right-wing groups are planning a march next week in Jerusalem to the Knesset to protest the aid to Gaza.

Protesters march to call for an immediate to to free the hostages held by Hamas terrorists in Gaza, in Tel Aviv, January 24, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

It is believed that 132 hostages abducted by Hamas on October 7 remain in Gaza. The IDF has confirmed the deaths of 28 of those still held by Hamas, citing new intelligence and findings obtained by troops operating in Gaza.

The bodies of eight hostages have also been recovered and three hostages were mistakenly killed by the military. One more person has been listed as missing since October 7, and their fate is still unknown.

Hamas has also been holding the bodies of fallen IDF soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin since 2014, as well as two Israeli civilians, Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, who are both thought to be alive after entering the Strip of their own accord in 2014 and 2015 respectively.

Most Popular
read more: