Humanitarian aid enters Gaza Strip via Ashdod port for the first time, says IDF

Eight trucks of flour from UN World Food Program sent into Strip as Israel says it continues to work to increase food and medical supplies to enclave

A truck of flour supplied by the United Nations' World Food Program is seen at Ashdod Port, before entering the Gaza Strip on April 17, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)
A truck of flour supplied by the United Nations' World Food Program is seen at Ashdod Port, before entering the Gaza Strip on April 17, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Israel Defense Forces said that humanitarian aid for Gazans that arrived through the Ashdod port on the Mediterranean coast entered the Strip for the first time on Wednesday.

Earlier this month, the government approved opening the port for humanitarian aid deliveries, in a bid to increase the amount of food and medical supplies for Palestinian civilians amid growing international pressure.

The military said eight trucks of flour supplied by the UN World Food Program entered Gaza after arriving in Israel via the port on Wednesday.

The truck underwent a “thorough” inspection at the port and then entered the Strip through the Kerem Shalom crossing, at the southern end of Gaza near Egypt.

The move came a day after EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell criticized Israel over its slow pace in keeping promises to boost aid for Gaza, noting Tuesday that the Ashdod port and the Erez crossing had not yet been opened for aid.

Israel has faced mounting pressure from the international community, including its closest allies, over the low amount of humanitarian aid being transferred into the Gaza Strip, where the United Nations has warned of looming famine.

Palestinians line up for a meal in Rafah, Gaza Strip, December 21, 2023. (AP Photo/Fatima Shbair)

Amid the pressure, Israel opened its skies to foreign planes airdropping aid packages into the Gaza Strip and helped set up a maritime corridor for direct deliveries of aid to Gaza by sea in the last couple of months.

However, frustration in Washington over Israel’s handling of the humanitarian situation reached a boiling point earlier this month after an IDF strike on a World Central Kitchen convoy killed seven of the aid group’s workers.

In a subsequent phone call with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, US President Joe Biden reportedly threatened to halt US support for Israel’s war against Hamas if Jerusalem didn’t take major steps to improve the humanitarian situation.

Within hours, Israel’s security cabinet voted to open another northern crossing into Gaza for aid, allow maritime aid deliveries through the Ashdod port, expand the aid convoys it allows in through Jordan, and develop more effective deconfliction mechanisms to ensure that humanitarian workers are protected.

Last week, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced that Israel was creating a new crossing to transport aid through instead of the Erez crossing which was heavily damaged in Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel.

Humanitarian aid is airdropped to Palestinians over Gaza City, Gaza Strip, March 25, 2024. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Essa)

Israel also significantly upped the number of trucks entering Gaza last week with 322 trucks being admitted on Sunday and more than 400 entering on Monday, the highest numbers in one day since the beginning of the war in Gaza.

The US said the development was good but still not enough, urging Israel to continue to take measures to increase the humanitarian aid for Gaza, where the majority of residents are displaced and almost all are facing food insecurity more than six months into the devastating war.

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