Israel says Kerem Shalom Crossing blocked by undistributed aid waiting on Gaza side

As IDF declares ‘next phase’ of humanitarian assistance, including construction of new crossing, COGAT blames aid backup on ‘slow’ UN and its ‘lack of logistical capabilities’

Humanitarian aid waits on the Palestinian side of the Kerem Shalom crossing in the southern Gaza Strip, in this handout photo from April 11, 2024. (COGAT)
Humanitarian aid waits on the Palestinian side of the Kerem Shalom crossing in the southern Gaza Strip, in this handout photo from April 11, 2024. (COGAT)

Israel’s military liaison to the Palestinians stated Thursday that it could not transfer additional aid to the Gaza Strip via the Kerem Shalom Crossing, as the contents of some 600 trucks were still awaiting pickup on the Palestinian side.

“We extended crossing hours and scaled up our capacities. Do your job. The bottlenecks are not on the Israeli side,” the Coordinator for the Government Activities in the Territories wrote in a social media post on X, while also tagging the United Nations.

Israel has significantly increased the amount of aid going into Gaza in recent days, with IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari announcing earlier Thursday that the military began its “next phase” of humanitarian operations in the Strip, including by starting work on a new land crossing for trucks to reach the northern part of the enclave directly.

The military also said Thursday that senior IDF generals met the day before with representatives of humanitarian aid organizations operating in Gaza, including members of UN bodies, the Red Cross, USAID, IMC and the American humanitarian coordinator.

The IDF said the meeting was part of “increasing coordination and cooperation” with the organizations, and that the head of COGAT showed the representatives the IDF’s humanitarian activities and steps to increase the rate of aid entering the Strip.

Israel has been engaged in a dispute with the United Nations over the amount of aid being sent, with COGAT accusing the UN of having a “slow” rate of pickup and distribution. It also charged that the UN’s “lack of logistical capabilities led… to the accumulation of the contents of hundreds of trucks this week, which led to the flooding of the Palestinian side of the crossing.” Because of this, COGAT said, Israel was prevented from “transferring additional humanitarian aid to the Strip.”

On Wednesday, Israel alleged that the UN was undercounting humanitarian aid trucks entering Gaza. Israel said that 419 trucks entered the enclave on Monday, but the main UN agency there, UNRWA, said only 223 trucks came in on that day. The agency also claimed that Israel was only sending half-full trucks that they would in turn have to repack after crossing into the Strip.

According to comments Wednesday by David Satterfield, the US envoy for the humanitarian situation in Gaza, the lack of trucks in the enclave was the biggest obstacle to delivering the recent influx of aid.

Trucks carrying humanitarian aid for the Gaza Strip pass through the inspection area at the Kerem Shalom Crossing in southern Israel, March 14, 2024. (AP/Ohad Zwigenberg)

In his remarks on Thursday, Hagari said the new crossing with northern Gaza was “to enable more aid to flow directly to civilians in the areas that have been challenging for trucks to access.”

At the start of the war, trucks only entered Gaza from Egypt’s Rafah crossing, with the IDF later opening the Kerem Shalom crossing from Israel to the south of the Strip. More recently, the IDF has allowed aid trucks to use a military road in central Gaza and enter via a crossing known as Gate 96.

Hagari said the new crossing was expected to handle at least 50 aid trucks per day.

“These new measures enable us to bring more aid and trucks destined for Gaza from overseas, including via the land crossing with Jordan” and Ashdod Port, Hagari said.

He estimated that the new measures would “gradually” bring the average number of aid trucks entering the Strip per day to 500.

According to the IDF, since the beginning of the war, Israel has coordinated the entry of 22,205 trucks carrying 417,231 tons of humanitarian aid.

Hagari also noted plans by the US to build a floating pier in central Gaza to bring in more aid, and the ongoing airdrops by various nations.

The IDF said that it has coordinated 64 airdrop missions, with a total of 3,962 packages of food in Gaza.

Hagari said coordinating aid into Gaza is “complicated” and is “complicated further by Hamas’s ongoing fire, including toward aid convoys.”

“We are working together with international organizations to solve the challenges of the destruction of aid inside Gaza, and we are implementing the lessons learned from the tragic incident with the WCK organization, in order to maximize the protection of aid workers,” Hagari continued, referring to a mistaken strike that killed seven aid workers.

Trucks carrying humanitarian aid make their way along a street in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on March 10, 2024. (Mohammed Abed / AFP)

At a press briefing Thursday, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said over 1,000 trucks of humanitarian aid had entered Gaza in the past several days.

“That’s good progress, but it’s still not enough and we hope to see the progress continue and accelerate,” she said, noting that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu still had to implement pledges to open the Ashdod Port for maritime aid deliveries, open another crossing into northern Gaza and expand the amount of aid for Gaza from Jordan.

Despite the progress she described, Jean-Pierre was peppered with questions from reporters demanding to know why US President Joe Biden was not doing more to address the humanitarian situation in Gaza, with the topic again taking up the overwhelming majority of foreign policy questions.

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