Israel claims highest single-day number of aid trucks enters Gaza since war began

Indonesia participates in massive airdrop marking end of Ramadan, in an apparent first time Muslim nation has flown through Israeli airspace; UNRWA disputes Israeli numbers

Illustrative - Egyptian trucks carrying humanitarian aid bound for the Gaza Strip queue outside the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing with the enclave, March 23, 2024. (Khaled Desouki/AFP)
Illustrative - Egyptian trucks carrying humanitarian aid bound for the Gaza Strip queue outside the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing with the enclave, March 23, 2024. (Khaled Desouki/AFP)

The highest number of trucks carrying aid entered the Gaza Strip on Tuesday since the start of the war in October, the Israeli military said. It was further bolstered by an unprecedented airdrop of supplies, including from Indonesia.

The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the IDF unit responsible for liaising with the Palestinians, said that 468 aid trucks had been inspected and transferred into Gaza on Tuesday, including 47 to the Strip’s battered north, which aid groups have said is especially difficult to reach.

The overall number of trucks, COGAT said, was the highest since the war began, surpassing the previous day’s high of 419. Over the past three days, more than 1,200 aid trucks were inspected by Israeli authorities and entered Gaza.

However, UN officials disputed the Israeli numbers.

“There has been no significant change in the volume of humanitarian supplies entering Gaza or improved access to the north,” the UN agency for Palestinian refugees said in its daily situation report.

Red Crescent officials in Egypt also gave different numbers, saying that more than 350 trucks had crossed from there into Gaza on Monday and 258 on Sunday. That was much more than in recent weeks when the number was usually fewer than 200, they said.

Young Palestinian vendors sell sweets at an open market in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on April 9, 2024, ahead of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. (Mohammed Abed/AFP)

However, UNRWA, the main United Nations agency in Gaza, said 223 trucks had entered on Monday, fewer than half the 500 trucks it said are required daily.

The UN claimed the discrepancy came because many of the trucks are only half-full, inflating the Israeli count.

UN humanitarian agency (OCHA) spokesperson Jens Laerke said Israel typically counts the half-filled trucks going through an initial screening process, rather than repacked, full trucks for delivery inside Gaza.

“Trucks that go in, screened by COGAT, are typically only half full. That is a requirement that they have put in place for screening purposes. When we count the trucks on the other side, when they have been reloaded, they are full,” Laerke said.

He claimed that Israel was still restricting most trucks from being able to move around.

“When you put up the statistical number of trucks going in and say, ‘Look at all these hundreds of trucks coming in’ and you put it against ‘Look how few trucks have actually moved around with distribution,’ it’s kind of an own goal, isn’t it,” he said.

There was no response from Israeli authorities.

In addition to the trucks, COGAT said 303 packages carrying “hundreds of thousands of meals” were also airdropped over the Palestinian enclave on Tuesday.

The BBC reported that Tuesday’s airdrop, planned to coincide with the end of Islam’s holy month of Ramadan, was the largest coalition airdrop to date during the war, with ten tons of food and water parachuted out of 14 planes from nine nations: the UK, US, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, the Netherlands, Germany, France, Jordan, and — unprecedentedly — Indonesia.

The planes assembled in Jordan’s capital of Amman, flying over Israel to the Gaza Strip. According to the Walla news site, this marked the first known time an Indonesian plane has entered Israeli airspace.

Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim country, does not have diplomatic relations with Israel.

File: Aircraft airdrops humanitarian aid over the northern Gaza Strip as seen from southern Israel, April 4, 2024. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

Its inclusion in the airdrop coalition is striking given Jerusalem had been said to reject a participation request from Turkey, with whom Israel maintains some degree of diplomatic relations. Turkey, incensed, announced Tuesday that it would restrict exports to Israel due to the decision.

Meanwhile, after withdrawing all troops from southern Gaza’s Khan Younis, the IDF said it was working to increase humanitarian aid deliveries in the Gaza Strip, ostensibly to increase Israel’s legitimacy to continue fighting Hamas despite the dire humanitarian situation in the Strip affected by the conflict.

The IDF also said that the army was prepared to handle any constraints that it may face as part of a potential hostage deal with Hamas, indicating that the military believes it would have no issue in resuming fighting in the event of a lengthy truce and unfettered return of Palestinians to the Strip’s north, which has reportedly been one of Hamas’s demands in ongoing negotiations.

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan commended the Israeli withdrawal, telling reporters at a White House press conference that it “create[s] a greater opening for the movement of humanitarian goods around Gaza at a critical moment when there is a real humanitarian crisis there.”

This handout picture released by the Jordanian army on April 9, 2024 shows humanitarian aid being prepared to be airdropped from a military aircraft over the Gaza Strip. (Jordanian Army/AFP)

“We welcome the opportunity to move more trucks in and around Gaza so that innocent civilians can get the food, water, medicine and other essentials that they need,” he said, while reiterating the White House’s position that not enough aid was entering the Strip.

As hunger in the Gaza Strip approaches famine levels, according to UN officials, even staunch allies of Israel have demanded a humanitarian pause in the fighting.

Israel launched its offensive on the Strip following its Hamas rulers’ brutal October 7 onslaught on southern Israel, in which thousands of terrorists killed nearly 1,200 people, mainly civilians, and took 253 hostages of all ages.

Israel’s military response has destroyed about half the Strip’s residences, displacing over a million people, many of whom have sought refuge in Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah, where Israel has pledged to launch a campaign despite allies’ opposition.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry says more than 33,000 people in the Strip have been killed in the fighting so far, a figure that cannot be independently verified and includes some 13,000 Hamas gunmen Israel says it has killed in battle. Israel also says it killed some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7.

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