Herzog: Three times more aid could be entering Gaza if not for UN’s ‘utter failure’

As UN claims half a million people in Gaza at risk of starvation, Israel repeats assertion that it is checking and approving more humanitarian aid trucks than are entering Strip

Illustrative: An Egyptian Red Crescent truck carrying humanitarian aid moves at the Israeli side of the Kerem Shalom border crossing with the southern Gaza Strip on December 19, 2023. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)
Illustrative: An Egyptian Red Crescent truck carrying humanitarian aid moves at the Israeli side of the Kerem Shalom border crossing with the southern Gaza Strip on December 19, 2023. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)

President Isaac Herzog averred Thursday that the United Nations has been failing to keep up with the amount of aid Israel is inspecting, and that the world body is to blame for the little amount of aid entering the Strip even after Israel has opened up its Kerem Shalom crossing to ease the bottleneck.

“Unfortunately, due to the utter failure of the UN in its work with other partners in the region, they have been unable to bring in more than 125 trucks [of aid] a day,” Herzog said in a meeting with visiting French Senate President Gérard Larcher.

“Today it is possible to provide three times the amount of humanitarian aid to Gaza if the UN — instead of complaining all day — would do its job,” Herzog said.

Israel has said that it has been inspecting hundreds of trucks per day at its Kerem Shalom and Nitzana Crossings and that many of the trucks subsequently remain outside Gaza. The UN and Egypt have argued that Israel’s military campaign has made it too dangerous to regularly deliver aid inside and through Gaza.

In recent weeks, multiple videos have circulated on social media of Gazans discovering stockpiles of aid in UNRWA facilities, and expressing anger at the organization for not distributing desperately needed supplies to citizens.

Herzog told Larcher on Thursday that Israel is “under attack also by psychological warfare that requires us to continue to apply pressure to bring our hostages back.”

President Isaac Herzog (R) meets with French Senate President Gérard Larcher in Jerusalem on December 21, 2023. (GPO)

The president said that Israel “made it clear that it is ready for a humanitarian truce and the continuation of humanitarian aid to Gaza to allow the return of the hostages.” He said Jerusalem is “working to facilitate a dramatic increase in humanitarian aid entering Gaza from the very first moment. We can enable the entry of 300 or even 400 trucks a day, this is tens of thousands of tons of humanitarian aid a day.”

A report released Thursday by the UN and other agencies said that more than half a million people in Gaza — a quarter of the population — are starving due to “woefully insufficient” quantities of food entering the territory.

“It doesn’t get any worse,” said Arif Husain, chief economist for the UN’s World Food Program. “I have never seen something at the scale that is happening in Gaza. And at this speed. How quickly it has happened, in just a matter of two months.”

The UN’s World Food Program said Wednesday it had delivered food into Gaza through the Kerem Shalom border crossing in the first direct aid convoy from Jordan.

The arrival of the 46-truck convoy, carrying more than 750 tons of goods, came after “weeks of coordination with all parties,” the Rome-based organization said.

“This crucial first step could pave the way for a more sustainable aid corridor through Jordan and allow for the delivery of more aid at scale,” it said. “Delivering food from Jordan, to Gaza through Kerem Shalom crossing, will increase the volume and speed of food reaching the Gaza Strip, as millions face the risk of starvation.”

Hamas claimed on Thursday that an Israeli airstrike killed the head of the Palestinian side of the Kerem Shalom border crossing on Thursday. The IDF and COGAT did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Hamas launched a murderous rampage through southern Israel on October 7, killing 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking another approximately 240 hostage. In response, Israel launched a military campaign against the terror group in the Strip, beginning its ground offensive in late October.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry claims at least 20,000 people in the Strip have been killed since the start of the war, a figure that cannot be independently verified and includes those killed by failed Palestinian rocket launches. Israeli officials have said over 8,000 of those killed in Gaza are Hamas operatives. The IDF says 137 soldiers have been killed during the ground offensive so far.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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