Israel denies humanitarian aid wasn’t checked for weapons before entering Gaza

Military liaison to the Palestinians says ‘only water, food and medical equipment’ entered Strip after report misquotes UN spokesperson as saying trucks weren’t inspected

This aerial view shows humanitarian aid trucks arriving at a storage facility in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on October 21, 2023, after having crossed through the Rafah border from Egypt. (Belal Al Sabbagh/AFP)
This aerial view shows humanitarian aid trucks arriving at a storage facility in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on October 21, 2023, after having crossed through the Rafah border from Egypt. (Belal Al Sabbagh/AFP)

Israel on Saturday denied that aid entering the Gaza Strip was not checked for arms before going in, after a report claimed a convoy of trucks transporting aid to the coastal enclave was not inspected prior to entering.

After citing a UN spokesperson saying 20 trucks that passed through the Rafah border crossing with Egypt were not checked for weapons or other contraband, the New York Times issued a correction that it misquoted Stéphane Dujarric and noting he stressed Israel was aware of the vehicles’ contents.

“All of the equipment was checked before going into Gaza,” Israel’s military liaison to the Palestinians said in a statement, adding the shipment included “only water, food and medical equipment.”

“We emphasize that Israel is able to make sure that nothing goes in or out except the aforementioned,” it said.

Dujarric had told the newspaper the trucks entered Gaza via an “expedited process,” in which a manifest of what they contained was submitted to the UN, Egypt and Israel. The aid was given to the Red Cross for distribution.

He also said the process would not be used again and was unsure when more trucks will be allowed to enter.

Trucks with humanitarian aid for the Gaza Strip enter from Egypt in Rafah on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2023. (AP/Fatima Shbair)

The report and later correction came as the first aid shipment entered Gaza through the Rafa crossing since the devastating October 7 Hamas onslaught on southern Israel, amid continued rocket fire from Gaza and as the number of confirmed hostages abducted in the shock assault rose to 210. Two American-Israeli hostages — mother and daughter Judith and Natalie Raanan — were released on Friday evening.

The massacre two weeks ago saw some 2,500 terrorists burst across the border into Israel from the Gaza Strip by land, air and sea, killing some 1,400 people and seizing hostages of all ages under the cover of thousands of rockets fired at Israeli towns and cities. The vast majority of those killed as gunmen seized border communities were civilians — men, women, children and the elderly. Entire families were executed in their homes, and over 260 people were slaughtered at an outdoor festival, many amid horrific acts of brutality by the terrorists.

The Rafah border crossing was closed again after the passage of the trucks from the Egyptian Red Crescent, which is responsible for delivering aid from various UN agencies.

As the trucks went through, an Israeli security official told reporters on Saturday: “As of now, I can tell you that there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza. There are hardships in moving people within days to the south of the Gaza Strip, but the population is getting along.

“There is no shortage of water in Gaza, there is enough food for the coming weeks, this is in addition to the supply of medicines which, as far as we know, there is no shortage in the hospitals,” he said.

Meanwhile, IDF spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari emphasized that “fuel will not enter Gaza.” Israel is concerned that the fuel can be used by terror groups to manufacture weapons.

This aerial view shows humanitarian aid trucks arriving from Egypt after having crossed through the Rafah border crossing arriving at a storage facility in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on October 21, 2023. (Belal Al SABBAGH / AFP)

Cargo planes and trucks have been bringing humanitarian aid to the Egyptian side of Rafah for days, but until Saturday none had been delivered to Gaza.

US President Joe Biden had pushed for the trucks to be allowed to pass into Gaza during a solidarity visit to Israel on Wednesday.

Biden had said the first 20 trucks would be a test of a system for distributing aid without allowing Hamas to benefit, with UN agencies set to distribute it on the Gaza side of the border, but warned that if Hamas “doesn’t let it get through or just confiscates it, then it’s going to end.”

Israel says its offensive against Hamas is aimed at destroying the terror group’s infrastructure, and has vowed to eliminate the entire organization, which rules the Strip. Israel says it is targeting all areas where Hamas operates, while seeking to minimize civilian casualties.

The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza has claimed that more than 4,100 Palestinians, mainly civilians, have been killed in Israeli bombardments since the October 7 massacres in Israel. The figures issued by the terror group cannot be independently verified, and are believed to include its own terrorists and gunmen, and the victims of a blast at a Gaza City hospital on October 17. Hamas blamed the blast on Israel, which has produced evidence showing it was caused by an Islamic Jihad rocket misfire. The United States, also citing its own data, has endorsed the Israeli account.

Emanuel Fabian and agencies contributed to this report.

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