Transfer of US-sent flour shipment to Gaza begins after two month delay caused by Israel

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

The process of transferring a massive shipment of flour sent by the US to Gaza has started after it was held up by Israel for nearly two months, US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller says.

Miller does not specify when trucks carrying this flour capable of feeding 1.5 million Gazans for five months began entering Gaza, but says during a briefing that Israel recently agreed to release flour from its Ashdod port and was “mak[ing] its way into Gaza — something we’ve been support for some time.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu privately informed the Biden administration that Israel approved the shipment in early January. The White House announced the development on January 19.

The shipment arrived at the port in Ashdod, but Smotrich blocked its transfer to UNRWA, which came under fire in January over allegations that 12 of its staffers participated in the October 7 terror onslaught.

On February 22, a US official told The Times of Israel that the new arrangement, with Israel’s agreement, will allow for the flour shipment to move forward, after Smotrich blocked its transfer for over a month.

The flour is to be ferried into Gaza by the World Food Program, rather than via the UNRWA relief agency for Palestinian refugees, the official said.

The delay has angered the Biden administration, which has repeatedly noted in recent weeks that Israel is violating the commitments it made to the president.

Miller says the release of the flour was one of several modest improvements seen in the Gaza humanitarian operation over the past several days.

He also says trucks carrying aid have been able to move around southern Gaza more freely than they were in recent weeks. There have also been convoys that successfully reached northern Gaza, where aid access has been particularly limited, Miller adds.

Gaza aid distribution ground to a halt last month, in the wake of a breakdown of law and order. After dozens of Palestinians were killed while trying to collect aid in northern Gaza on February 29, the Biden administration began airdropping aid into Gaza and announced the establishment of a marine corridor, which it aims to have up and running in two months.

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