US, UK, European officials said pushing Israel to let more Gaza aid enter via Ashdod

NY Times says security cabinet quietly approved shipments of flour via port, but kept decision under wraps amid public pressure over hostages held by Hamas

Trucks carrying humanitarian aid enter Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip after crossing the terminal border from Egypt, on January 17, 2024. (AFP)
Trucks carrying humanitarian aid enter Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip after crossing the terminal border from Egypt, on January 17, 2024. (AFP)

Israel is coming under pressure from American, British and European officials to allow more humanitarian aid for Palestinians in Gaza to transit via the southern Israeli port of Ashdod, according to a Sunday report, after the White House said on Friday that Israel would permit flour to enter through the port.

A US official quoted by The New York Times said that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had pressed the issue when he was in Israel earlier in January.

The report detailed a new proposed agreement under which humanitarian supplies for Gaza would be shipped via Cyprus to Ashdod, after which they would be transported through Kerem Shalom, which is already open for aid deliveries to the coastal enclave.

Israel has dismissed United Nations reports of widespread starvation in the Strip, and alleges that existing problems have been caused by the inability of the international body to properly distribute the goods once they entered the enclave.

The main issue for Israel, according to the Times report, is making sure that aid deliveries can meet stringent security demands. While Israel does not give details about the security checks, the Times reported earlier in January that the aim is to “weed out anything that could benefit Hamas.”

In addition to food, which COGAT — the Defense Ministry’s liaison office with the Palestinians — says comprises 70% of truckloads to Gaza, water, medical supplies and equipment for makeshift shelters also pass through Kerem Shalom.

Israel initially restricted aid into Gaza in the wake of the October 7 massacre, when some 3,000 Hamas terrorists surged into Israel, killing some 1,200 people, most of them civilians, and taking 253 hostage.

Israelis attend a rally calling for the release of hostages held in Gaza by Palestinian terrorists, at Hostages Square in Tel Aviv, January 20, 2024. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

On Friday, the US welcomed an Israeli decision to permit the entry of large shipments of flour via Ashdod, located some 40 kilometers from the Gaza border. Jerusalem has so far refrained from announcing the decision, ostensibly due to its unpopularity among large swaths of the public while 132 hostages remain in Gaza; however, an Israeli official confirmed to the Times that the security cabinet approved the plan on Friday.

The United Nations estimates that 1.9 million Gazans — 85 percent of the prewar population — have been displaced as Israel urged civilians to leave areas where there was fighting. There are shortages of food, water, fuel, and medicines despite efforts to bring in larger amounts of aid. The war is in its 108th day.

Agencies contributed to this report. 

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