US says Gaza aid ‘increased dramatically,’ as convoys proceed via new crossing

White House stresses improvement must be sustained; COGAT: 3 bakeries reopened in north Gaza now making 3 million pita breads daily; IDF continues pinpoint operation near Nuseirat

Palestinians line up to buy subsidized bread at a bakery in Gaza City on April 14, 2024. (Photo by AFP)
Palestinians line up to buy subsidized bread at a bakery in Gaza City on April 14, 2024. (Photo by AFP)

Humanitarian aid getting into the Gaza Strip has increased by a large amount in the last few days, White House National Security spokesman John Kirby said on Monday, adding the United States needs to see that aid continue.

“The aid has increased and quite dramatically in just the last few days,” Kirby said in an interview with MSNBC. “That’s important but it has to be sustained.”

More than 2,000 trucks have been able to get in, about 100 in the last 24 hours alone, Kirby said.

The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the Defense Ministry unit responsible for liaising with the Palestinians, announced on Sunday that three bakeries that reopened in northern Gaza in the past week are now producing some three million pita breads daily, and that food aid convoys are continuing via the new Northern Crossing.

US President Joe Biden earlier this month threatened to condition support for Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza on it taking concrete steps to protect aid workers and civilians.

The warning was prompted by a mistaken Israeli strike that killed seven World Central Kitchen aid workers in Gaza on April 1. It was the first time the Biden administration has sought to leverage US aid to influence Israeli military behavior.

As Biden said, Kirby added in a separate interview on CNBC, “Our policy with respect to Gaza will change if we don’t see significant changes over time.”

Six months into the war in Gaza, triggered by Hamas’s brutal October 7 massacre, Israel has ramped up efforts to deliver aid to the territory in light of growing international warnings of a humanitarian crisis and potential famine, including opening a new land crossing.

It has recently taken steps it says are aimed at facilitating the transfer of far more food and other necessities into the territory, with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant saying the plan is to “flood Gaza with aid.”

A Palestinian man reacts after buying subsidized bread outside a bakery in Gaza City on April 14, 2024. (Photo by AFP)

Kirby’s statement came a day after Iran launched roughly 350 attack drones and missiles at Israel, though the IDF said it would not be distracted from its war against Tehran-backed Hamas in Gaza.

“Even while under attack from Iran, we have not lost sight… of our critical mission in Gaza to rescue our hostages from the hands of Iran’s proxy Hamas,” IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said late Sunday.

“Hamas is still holding our hostages in Gaza,” the IDF spokesman said of the 129 people, including 34 presumed dead, still in the hands of terror groups in Gaza since the Hamas attack. “We also have hostages in Rafah, and we will do everything we can to bring them back home.”

The IDF also said it was calling up “two reserve brigades for operational activities,” about a week after withdrawing most ground troops from Gaza.

The IDF said Monday that it was continuing a pinpoint operation against Hamas and other terror groups in the central Gaza Strip, on the outskirts of the Nuseirat camp.

IDF troops operate in the central Gaza Strip, in a handout photo published April 15, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

Troops of the Nahal Infantry Brigade, 401st Armored Brigade and other forces under the 162nd Division have killed numerous gunmen, destroyed buildings used by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, seized weapons, and located rocket launchers, the army said.

Nahal troops were also operating in the so-called Netzarim corridor, a strip of land running from the border with Israel near Be’eri to the coast, where they killed some 15 gunmen over the past day.

The corridor, built around a road south of Gaza City and north of Nuseirat, enables the IDF to carry out raids in northern and central Gaza while allowing Israel to control access to the north for Palestinians seeking to return after fleeing south.

Also Monday, the IDF’s Arabic-language military spokesman Avichay Adraee renewed warnings for Palestinians stay in southern Gaza, where they have been told to shelter, as Israel is still carrying out airstrikes and targeted operations in the north of the Strip against reorganizing Hamas forces.

Displaced Palestinians taking the coastal Rashid road as they attempt to return to Gaza City pass through Nuseirat in the central Gaza Strip, on April 14, 2024. (AFP)

People appeared to be heeding the warning to avoid the “dangerous combat zone” posted on X, formerly Twitter, especially after the violence on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Gaza’s crossings authority said Israel released around 150 detainees from the Strip on Monday, and claimed that they had been mistreated in detention.

Troops have rounded up hundreds of Palestinians during the war in Gaza, holding them without charge before releasing some in groups.

The latest detainees to be released were taken to Israel and returned via the Kerem Shalom border crossing before some were treated in a hospital in Rafah, in the south of the territory, according to the Gaza crossings authority and an AFP journalist.

“Since the early hours of the morning, 150 prisoners from various parts of the Gaza Strip who were detained by the Israeli occupation have been released,” the spokesman for the Gaza Crossings Authority, Hisham Adwan, told AFP.

File – IDF soldiers stand by a truck packed with bound and blindfolded Palestinian detainees, in Gaza, December 8, 2023. (AP Photo/Moti Milrod, Haaretz, File)

“It is very noticeable that there is severe mistreatment of these prisoners, as a number of them were sent to Abu Yousef al-Najjar Hospital for treatment,” he added.

The IDF did not comment on the release of these detainees but said the mistreatment of those in detention was “absolutely prohibited.”

“Those who are not involved in terrorist activity are released back to the Gaza Strip,” the army told AFP in a statement.

Last month, the crossings authority said 56 Palestinian detainees released from Israeli prisons “showed signs of torture” committed during their detention.

At the time, the IDF said detainees “are treated in accordance with international law.”

The head of the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees, Philippe Lazzarini, said last month that Gazans detained by Israeli forces were coming back “completely traumatized” and reporting “a broad range of ill treatment” including threats of electrocution, being photographed naked, sleep deprivation and having dogs used to intimidate them.

Troops operating in the Gaza Strip in an undated photo released by the military on April 14, 2024 (Israel Defense Forces)

The war in Gaza erupted after Hamas’s October 7 massacre, which saw some 3,000 terrorists burst across the border into Israel by land, air and sea, killing some 1,200 people and seizing 253 hostages, mostly civilians, many amid acts of brutality and sexual assault.

Vowing to destroy Hamas and return the hostages, Israel launched a wide-scale offensive in Gaza that the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry says has killed at least 33,729 Palestinians, mostly women and children. These figures cannot be independently verified, and are believed to include both civilians and Hamas members killed in Gaza, including as a consequence of terror groups’ own rocket misfires.

The IDF says it has killed over 13,000 operatives in Gaza, in addition to some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report. 

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