UN says Israel approved reopening of 20 bakeries, water pipeline in northern Gaza

Amid efforts to boost flow of aid into Strip, humanitarian official says coordination to be enhanced between military and aid workers, trucks entering from Jordan to be doubled

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 Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)
File: 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 Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)

The United Nations on Saturday said Israel had authorized the opening of 20 bakeries in the northern Gaza Strip and and a waterline to supply the area, as part of a list of the country’s “commitments” to improve the humanitarian situation in Gaza.

A statement from the UN’s humanitarian coordinator for Gaza and the West Bank, Jamie McGoldrick listed other measures announced earlier this week, including the opening of the Erez Crossing to the northern Strip for the first time since October 7 and increasing the number of trucks entering via Jordan from the Allenby Bridge crossing.

McGoldrick also said a “better functioning coordination cell will be established that links humanitarians directly with the IDF Southern Command.”

While most of the steps detailed in McGoldrick’s statement were announced by the Prime Minister’s Office early Friday morning, he expanded on the details of the approvals, which he said came “in response to our repeated requests.”

In addition to expanding border crossing operating hours and capacity, the UN official said Israel has approved the activation of 20 bakeries and the reopening of the Nahal Oz waterline in northern Gaza, which was shut off on October 9, with the outbreak of war.

Two other pipelines were reopened in October.

File: View of the Erez Crossing at the Israeli border with the Gaza Strip, January 4, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

The statement said the number of trucks allowed to pass through from Jordan will be increased from 25 to at least 50 per day, while an additional 100 trucks per day will be scanned via the Kerem Shalom and Nitzana crossings in the south of the Strip.

He noted an additional scanner would be installed at Kerem Shalom “to accelerate the transfer of aid into Gaza.”

“As I have stated previously, the humanitarian community is prepared to scale up assistance in Gaza, but this requires better security, greater access, and more reliable facilitation from Israeli authorities,” he said in the statement.

“We stand ready to work with all parties to alleviate the suffering of people in Gaza.”

The new measures were announced after a tense phone call Thursday between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Joe Biden, who threatened to condition support for Israel’s offensive in Gaza on Jerusalem taking concrete steps to protect aid workers and civilians.

It was the first conversation between the two since an Israeli strike in central Gaza late on Monday killed seven aid workers from the World Central Kitchen. Israel has called the strike on the WCK convoy a “grave mistake” and has announced the removal of a number of officers responsible. But Netanyahu also said that “these things happen in war” — a line that wasn’t well received internationally.

Secretary of State Anthony Blinken welcomed the moves on Friday while adding that success would be measured by the results in improving the situation on the ground.

“Really the proof is in the results, and we will see those unfold in the coming days, in the coming weeks,” Blinken said, speaking alongside European Union leaders in Belgium.

Earlier Saturday, the United Nations’ under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief, Martin Griffiths, decried the ongoing war in Gaza as a “betrayal of humanity.”

In a statement on the eve of the six-month anniversary of the war, the outgoing humanitarian official called for a “collective determination that there be a reckoning for this betrayal of humanity.”

“For the people of Gaza, the past six months of war have brought death, devastation, and now the immediate prospect of a shameful man-made famine,” he said

“For the people affected by the lasting horror of the October 7 attacks, it has been six months of grief and torment,” he added.

The Israel-Hamas war erupted with Palestinian terror group Hamas carrying out an unprecedented attack against Israel on October 7, killing some 1,200 people and taking another 253 hostages, some half of whom are still held.

Since the start of the war, more than 33,000 Palestinians have been killed, according to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry. These figures can not be verified and do not differentiate between civilians and combatants. Israel says it has killed more than 13,000 gunmen in Gaza and another 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7. More than 250 IDF soldiers have been killed in Gaza.

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