US outraged at Israeli protesters’ assault on aid convoy: ‘Utterly unacceptable’

Two trucks set on fire in West Bank after demonstrators block supply vehicles heading to Gaza, dump contents into road; German envoy calls attack ‘disgraceful’

White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan speaks during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington, May 13, 2024. (Susan Walsh/AP)
White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan speaks during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington, May 13, 2024. (Susan Walsh/AP)

The United States said Monday it was looking at a response to an assault by right-wing protesters who blocked an aid convoy heading to Gaza, spilled the trucks’ cargo into the road, and reportedly set two of the vehicles alight.

Four people were arrested during the assault on the convoy as it passed through the West Bank on its way from Jordan to the Gaza Strip.

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters in Washington: “It is a total outrage that there are people who are attacking and looting these convoys.

“We are looking at the tools that we have to respond to this,” Sullivan said. “We are also raising our concerns at the highest level of the Israeli government and it’s something that we make no bones about – this is completely and utterly unacceptable behavior.”

Germany’s Ambassador to Israel Steffen Seibert also condemned the vandalism, writing in a post to X: “To raid aid trucks and prevent food from reaching the needy is disgraceful. And it certainly won‘t help the Israeli cause of freeing the hostages and securing the country against the terror of Hamas.”

The activists oppose the delivery of aid into Gaza as long as 132 people are still being held hostage by Palestinian terrorists in Gaza, all but four of them seized during the devastating October 7 attack on Israel led by Hamas that killed some 1,200 people and opened the war.

The Tzav 9 activist group claimed credit for blocking the shipment as it passed through the Tarqumiyah checkpoint in the Hebron Hills region between the southern West Bank and Israel.

Trucks have been transferring aid originating in Jordan through the West Bank en route to Gaza, where Israel is warring against the Palestinian terror group Hamas. The fighting has led to a humanitarian crisis in the enclave.

Footage from the scene showed over a dozen activists standing in the road as a truck idled in the background. A picture showed protesters throwing dozens of sacks of sugar out of a truck, with sugar spilling out of some. Video showed that several trucks in the convoy had been vandalized in this way.

Two trucks from the convoy were later set on fire, according to media reports.

Police arrested four people and then, after they left, the Haaretz newspaper reported, far-right activists returned and torched the trucks later in the evening.

Israel Police and the IDF traded blame, Haaretz reported, with the former saying the army was responsible for guarding the trucks after police dispersed the protesters, while the military said the entire incident fell under the police’s jurisdiction because it took place on the Israeli side of the checkpoint.

A senior security establishment official told Haaretz that “police are turning a blind eye to the rioting of lawbreakers who loot and burn the aid,” alleging that the latter were “receiving inside information regarding the movement of the trucks.”

The official said that some members of the police force avoid cracking down on the activists, while others only reluctantly agree to tackle the issue.

“There is a feeling that they are trying to please someone specific in the government,” the official added, apparently referring to far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, whose office oversees the police and has reportedly encouraged law enforcement not to crack down on the protesters blocking aid from reaching Gaza.

The activists argue that aid should be used as leverage to bring back the hostages, also claiming that it is being co-opted by Hamas.

Tzav 9 had said it was “absurd insanity that on a day when we remember our fallen, killed by the [Hamas] terrorists, the State of Israel continues in whatever way it can to transfer aid to those same terrorists,” referring to Memorial Day, during which Israelis remember those killed in wars and by terrorism.

“We cannot allow the fallen to be the silver platter for the terrorists,” Tzav 9 said. “No aid goes through until the last of the hostages returns.”

Roi Baruch, whose brother Uriel Baruch was killed by Hamas with his remains held in Gaza, welcomed the action.

“You must not allow aid to the enemy to pass through and reach the hands of Hamas,” he said in remarks included in the Tzav 9 statement. “Blocking the trucks is a noble and understandable act for anyone with a sound mind.”

Regavim, a right-wing movement active in the West Bank, expressed support for the protesters, saying in a statement: “It is inconceivable to the heart and mind that on the day of remembrance for the fallen of Israel’s campaigns and victims of terror, the Israeli government opens a supply route… to the Hamas terrorists in Gaza.”

The right-wing Honenu legal aid organization said four activists, including at least one minor, were arrested.

Activists from Tzav 9 have similarly blocked other convoys several times in the past, including last week when six protesters were arrested after a convoy was halted and some cargo damaged.

The activists have not affected aid deliveries in a significant way.

On Sunday the Israel Defense Forces said it had opened a new crossing with the northern Gaza Strip for humanitarian aid deliveries. The so-called Western Erez Crossing is located in the Zikim area, on the coast.

The crossing was built by the Defense Ministry’s engineering department, the ministry’s crossings authority, and IDF engineering units.

The IDF said the crossing was opened “as part of the effort to increase aid routes to the Gaza Strip, and to the northern Gaza Strip in particular.”

Tzav 9 lamented the development at the time, saying it was a “shameful spectacle.”

An aerial view of the new crossing with the northern Gaza Strip, near Kibbutz Zikim, May 12, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

Israel has been working to increase humanitarian aid deliveries to Gaza amid pressure from the international community, including the US.

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