COGAT posts image of aid 'waiting for UN distribution' in Gaza

‘A moral outrage’: At Gaza border, UN chief decries blocked trucks, inadequate aid flow

Visiting Egypt-Rafah crossing, Guterres slams ‘non-stop nightmare’ for Gazans, ‘entire generations wiped out’; FM Katz: UN an ‘antisemitic, anti-Israel lobby’ that ’emboldens’ terror

File - United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres, center, visits the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, Saturday, March 23, 2024. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)
File - United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres, center, visits the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, Saturday, March 23, 2024. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

A long line of blocked relief trucks on Egypt’s side of the border with the Gaza Strip where people face starvation is “a moral outrage,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said during a visit to the Rafah crossing on Saturday.

It was time for Israel to give an “ironclad commitment” for unfettered access to humanitarian goods throughout Gaza, said Guterres, who also called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire and the release of Israeli hostages held in Gaza.

The UN would continue to work with Egypt to “streamline” the flow of aid into Gaza, he told reporters in front of the gate of the Rafah crossing, an entry point for aid.

“Here from this crossing, we see the heartbreak and heartlessness of it all. A long line of blocked relief trucks on one side of the gates, the long shadow of starvation on the other,” he said. “That is more than tragic. It is a moral outrage.”

“Palestinians in Gaza — children, women, men — remain stuck in a non-stop nightmare,” he said. “I carry the voices of the vast majority of the world who have seen enough,” Guterres said, deploring “communities obliterated, homes demolished, entire families and generations wiped out.”

He reiterated that “nothing justifies the horrific attacks by Hamas” against Israel, triggering the war on October 7 when thousands of Palestinian terrorists launched a multi-pronged coordinated attack on mostly civilian communities, killing 1,200 and taking 253 others hostage.

Vowing to destroy Hamas, Israel launched a wide-scale military campaign in Gaza, aiming to destroy the terror group and return the hostages. The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza says over 32,000 have been killed. The unverified figure does not differentiate between combatants and civilians and is believed to include Palestinians killed by terror groups’ rocket misfires and at least 13,000 terror operatives Israel says it has killed in battle. Israel also says it killed some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7.

“Nothing justifies the collective punishment of the Palestinian people,” Guterres said Saturday.

Egyptian Red Crescent trucks loaded with aid queue outside the Rafah border crossing with the Gaza Strip on March 23, 2024. (Photo by Khaled Desouki/AFP)

In a furious response shortly after his comments, Foreign Minister Israel Katz accused the United Nations under Guterres’s leadership of becoming an “antisemitic and anti-Israeli body” that “emboldens” terror.

Guterres, Katz said, “stood today on the Egyptian side of the Rafah crossing and blamed Israel for the humanitarian situation in Gaza, without condemning in any way the Hamas-ISIS terrorists who plunder humanitarian aid, without condemning UNRWA that cooperates with terrorists — and without calling for the immediate, unconditional release of all Israeli hostages.”

File: Foreign Minister Israel Katz holds up a paper photo of hostages kidnapped during the Oct. 7 Hamas cross-border attack in Israel, as he arrives for a meeting of EU foreign ministers at the European Council building in Brussels, January 22, 2024. (Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Footage from Gaza has shown gunmen, believed to be members of the terror group, stealing trucks delivering humanitarian aid from Egypt. Israel has also long said that Hamas stockpiled supplies and kept them from increasingly desperate civilians.

Israel has also provided evidence for allegations that over a dozen employees of the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency, UNRWA, actively participated in Hamas’s October 7 terror onslaught and that many others have direct ties to terror groups.

Under Guterres’s leadership, Katz wrote on X, the UN “has become an antisemitic and anti-Israeli body that shelters and emboldens terror.”

The visit by Guterres comes as Israel faces global pressure to facilitate more humanitarian aid into Gaza.

The delivery of aid has been a point of contention in the devastating five-month war. Israel, which checks all trucks entering Gaza from both the Kerem Shalom and Rafah crossings, has blamed the United Nations for not delivering the aid fast enough after they are cleared, and for leading to a general fall-off in deliveries over the past month.

The UN has said it is becoming more difficult to distribute aid inside Gaza, where aid convoys often face armed looters and desperate civilians.

The US has begun airdropping meals into north Gaza, in coordination with Egypt and Jordan, and the UN has started using a new military road to increase the flow of aid.

Trucks waiting

Before his stop at the border, where he met UN humanitarian workers, Guterres landed in el-Arish in Egypt’s northern Sinai, where much of the international relief for Gaza is delivered and stockpiled.

Receiving him, regional governor Mohamed Shusha said some 7,000 trucks were waiting in North Sinai to deliver aid to Gaza, but that inspection procedures demanded by Israel had held up the flow of relief.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (C) walks on the tarmac flanked by the Egyptian Second Army in Sinai Chief Mohammad Abdel Rahman (L) and Egypt’s Health Minister Khaled Abdel Ghaffar (R), upon landing at Egypt’s el-Arish airport, near the Rafah border with the Gaza Strip on March 23, 2024. (Khaled Desouki/AFP)

Guterres also visited a hospital in el-Arish where Palestinians evacuated from Gaza are receiving treatment.

As hopes for a truce in Gaza during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan have faded and the humanitarian situation in Gaza has become more desperate, the United States and other countries have sought to use airdrops and ships to deliver aid.

But humanitarians say only about one-fifth of the required amount of supplies has been entering Gaza, and that the only way to meet needs is to rapidly accelerate deliveries by road.

Spreading hunger

COGAT, the Defense Ministry body governing civilian affairs in the Palestinian territories, on Saturday posted an image of what it said was aid that had “accumulated” on the other side of the border and was waiting for distribution by the United Nations and its Palestinian refugee agency, UNRWA.

“This is the equivalent of hundreds of aid trucks — which isn’t being distributed to Gazan civilians. We remain committed to the transfer of aid to Gaza,” it wrote on X.

Israel, which has vowed to destroy Hamas and is worried that the Palestinian terror group will divert aid, has kept all but one of its land crossings into the enclave closed. It opened its Kerem Shalom crossing close to Rafah in late December and denies accusations by Egypt and UN aid agencies that it has delayed deliveries of humanitarian relief, saying that there is no limit to the amount of aid that can enter the Strip.

Israel blames the ailing humanitarian situation on aid agencies’ failure to distribute supplies, and on Hamas and armed groups who have looted trucks entering the Gaza.

This week, a global food monitor warned that famine was imminent in northern Gaza and could spread to other parts of the territory if a ceasefire is not agreed upon.

“It’s time for an ironclad commitment by Israel for total, unfettered access for humanitarian goods throughout Gaza,” said Guterres.

“It’s time to truly flood Gaza with life-saving aid. The choice is clear: either surge or starvation,” he said.

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres speaks at the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, Saturday, March 23, 2024. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

Guterres, who made one previous trip to Egypt’s border with Gaza shortly after the war broke out, is visiting Egypt and Jordan as part of an annual “solidarity trip” to Muslim countries during Ramadan.

While in the Egyptian capital Cairo, he is due to break the daily fast with refugees from Sudan, where war between rival military factions has displaced nearly 8.5 million people, driven parts of the population to extreme hunger, and led to waves of ethnically-driven killings in Darfur.

Speaking at Egypt’s el-Arish airport, Guterres also said there was a clear international consensus that any ground assault on the southern Gaza city of Rafah would cause a humanitarian catastrophe.

Palestinians assess the destruction of a house hit by an Israeli strike in northern Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on March 23, 2024. (Said Khatib/AFP)

Israel has signaled its intent to launch an operation in Gaza’s southernmost city, just over the border from Egypt, despite international appeals against such an attack. A majority of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents are sheltering around Rafah.

The impending operation has strained Israel’s ties with the US, which has repeatedly warned Jerusalem against the ground offensive.

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