US also slams right-wing Israelis for targeting aid convoy

US says Hamas briefly seized 1st aid shipment that entered Gaza via reopened crossing

State Department says UN ‘in the process or has by now recovered’ the humanitarian assistance stolen by terror group, the ‘first widespread case of diversion’ acknowledged by US

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

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)
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)

Hamas managed to seize a major shipment of humanitarian aid that was delivered to Gaza from Jordan earlier this week, US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said Thursday, after the supplies were the first to be shipped to the enclave through a newly reopened Israeli border crossing.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken viewed the aid on Tuesday just before it departed from the headquarters of the Jordan Hashemite Charity Organization in Amman bound for the renovated crossing into the Gaza Strip at Erez, which was largely destroyed by Hamas during its October 7 terror onslaught that sparked the ongoing war.

The reopening of Erez, Israel’s sole crossing on the northern edge of Gaza, had been a main plea of international aid agencies for months, to alleviate the humanitarian situation which is believed to be most severe among the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in the north of the enclave.

According to Miller, the aid shipment was unloaded by the Jordanian military inside the Strip before being “picked up by a humanitarian implementer for distribution inside Gaza, and that aid was intercepted and diverted by Hamas on the ground in Gaza.”

“The UN is either in the process or has by now recovered that aid, but it was an unacceptable act by Hamas to divert this aid to begin with,” he said during a press briefing.

Miller added that UNRWA, the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees, would likely issue a statement soon condemning the incident, indicating it was the organization from which Hamas stole the aid.

“If there’s one thing that Hamas could do to jeopardize the shipment of aid, it would be diverting it for their own use, rather than allowing it to go to the innocent civilians that need it,” he said, claiming this was the “first widespread case of diversion that we have seen” in Gaza.

Hamas held the aid trucks for “some time” before releasing them, according to Miller.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks to the press in front of a truck with humanitarian aid bound for Gaza, at the Jordanian Hashemite Charity Organization in Amman on April 30, 2024. (Evelyn Hockstein/AFP)

His comments follow Israel’s long-standing contention that Hamas stockpiled supplies and kept them from increasingly desperate civilians. Footage from Gaza has shown gunmen, who were reportedly linked to the terror group, stealing trucks delivering humanitarian aid from Egypt.

In February, the US diplomat who was then involved in humanitarian assistance for Gaza denied allegations that Hamas stole aid and commercial shipments into the enclave, saying that no Israeli official had presented him or the Biden administration with “specific evidence of diversion or theft of assistance.”

At the same time, he acknowledged that Hamas had used other aid delivery channels to “shape where and to whom assistance goes.”

Armed and masked Palestinians on trucks loaded with international humanitarian aid entered Gaza through Israel’s Kerem Shalom crossing, into southern Gaza on April 3, 2024. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

Meanwhile, Blinken condemned the “unacceptable” targeting of the Jordanian aid convoy by Israeli protesters trying to prevent its transfer to Gaza.

Tzav 9, a right-wing organization that opposes aid being sent to Gaza while hostages are still held there, organized a demonstration at the Allenby Crossing between Israel and Jordan overnight Tuesday to block the convoy. Images on social media showed young women sitting on the road in front of a truck, while other demonstrators held Israeli flags and pictures of the hostages.

Videos showed the activists dumping bags of flour onto the road.

“My understanding is that the people who attacked this convoy were arrested today by the Israeli authorities. That sends a very strong message,” he noted during an NBC Nightly News interview.

The Israeli government must “continue to send a strong message that this aid cannot be, must not be interfered with as it goes through Israel… Israel is better than this,” he added while noting that the atrocities committed against Israel on October 7 and Hamas’s continued holding of hostages since.

“The people who so desperately need this aid and who are now getting more of it because of the important steps that [Israel has] taken in recent weeks — including right here at Ashdod port — have nothing to do with October 7, nothing to do with the hostages,” Blinken said.

“They’ve been caught in this crossfire of Hamas’s making, and it’s imperative that they get the food that they need, the water they need, the medical supplies they need, access to the hospitals, to health care — all of that,” he added.

Israel’s military offensive against Hamas, in response to the Palestinian terror group’s egregious assault on Israel on October 7, has devastated the Gaza Strip and plunged its 2.3 million people into a humanitarian crisis.

Israel recently stepped up efforts to deliver aid by land and opened up new ground routes, including opening Erez to aid trucks on Wednesday. Washington has said aid delivery has increased significantly in recent weeks, but that more is needed.

A temporary pier is also being constructed by the US military to increase humanitarian aid deliveries, and is more than halfway complete, the Pentagon said Wednesday.

Agencies and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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