Israeli rights groups tell High Court government is not meeting Gaza aid obligations

Government says steps it has taken to facilitate the entry of relief go ‘above and beyond’ its obligations; Blinken this week confirmed increase in aid but said more must be done

An IDF soldier walks through an inspection area for trucks carrying humanitarian aid supplies bound for the Gaza Strip, on the Palestinian side of the Erez crossing from southern Israel, May 1, 2024. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)
An IDF soldier walks through an inspection area for trucks carrying humanitarian aid supplies bound for the Gaza Strip, on the Palestinian side of the Erez crossing from southern Israel, May 1, 2024. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)

Five Israeli human rights groups that took Israel to court over restrictions on aid to Gaza said on Friday that the state’s insistence that it has met its obligations was “incomprehensible.”

Gisha and four other Israeli non-profit organizations have petitioned the High Court of Justice demanding that the government specify what measures the executive branch is taking to step up aid deliveries to Gaza, where the United Nations has warned famine is looming.

Following an initial hearing last month, the court asked the government to answer follow-up questions before a fresh hearing scheduled for Sunday.

In a second update provided to the court this week, the government maintained that the steps it has taken so far to facilitate the entry of relief items to Gaza went “above and beyond” its obligations.

“It is inconceivable that the respondents, who admit to not having even the faintest idea about the extent of the aid required for residents of the Gaza Strip, are claiming that they have fulfilled their obligations – and even beyond,” the groups said in a response published by Gisha on Friday.

They said the shortages evident inside Gaza indicated “that the respondents are not meeting their obligations, not to the required extent nor at the necessary speed.”

Workers unload a truck in Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip of humanitarian aid delivered from Jordan to the coastal territory through the Erez border crossing with Israel, on May 1, 2024. (Jack Guez/AFP)

Aid organizations have long complained of obstacles to getting relief to those in need inside Gaza.

But Israel has insisted it does not block relief entering Gaza, and that any shortages are the result of the inability of aid agencies to distribute it to those in need.

The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories said in April that there has been “a great surge in the amount of humanitarian aid going into Gaza.”

In total, it said, more than 6,000 trucks carrying food, water, medical supplies and tents entered the enclave last month.

“There is no limit to the amount of aid that can be facilitated into Gaza, and the month of April proved it,” it said on X.

UN agencies, however, complain of persistent obstacles.

The UN humanitarian office OCHA said this week that only 52 of 94 aid missions to northern Gaza requested in April were facilitated by Israeli authorities, while more than a quarter were impeded and 10 percent denied, with others cancelled due to logistical constraints.

Aid agencies have said that hundreds of thousands of Gazans are suffering from severe malnutrition and hunger, particularly in the north of the territory, where international humanitarian organizations have warned of impending famine.

Visiting Israel on Wednesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken toured the Kerem Shalom border crossing between Israel and Gaza to view efforts to increase the flow of humanitarian aid into the Strip. He said that while aid to the Palestinian enclave has been increased, more needs to be done.

Israel on Wednesday reopened the sole crossing on the northern edge of the Gaza Strip for the first time since it was attacked by Hamas on October 7, allowing aid trucks to pass through the Erez checkpoint following US demands to do more to get aid into the Strip.

War broke out following Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel in which terrorists killed nearly 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and kidnapped 253.

The ensuing Israeli offensive against Hamas has led to the deaths of over 34,000 people in Gaza, according to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry. This figure cannot be independently verified and does not differentiate between civilians and Hamas operatives. Israel says it has killed over 13,000 Hamas terrorists inside Gaza and 1,000 terrorists within Israeli territory on October 7.

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