Israel’s National Security Minister, the far-right extremist Itamar Ben-Gvir, has categorically opposed humanitarian aid being allowed into the besieged Gaza Strip until Hamas is “completely removed” from the enclave. Ben-Gvir made his callous remark in a video filmed at the site where a rocket fired by the Palestinian resistance factions from Gaza fell in the Tel Aviv area on Tuesday.
His words coincided with increased pressure on Israel by the US administration to increase the volume of aid allowed to enter the besieged enclave, which is witnessing an unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe.
“It is simply a grave mistake that while missiles are being fired at us, and there are kidnapped men and women in Gaza, the Israeli government allows the transfer of humanitarian aid and the transport of trucks [to the Gaza Strip],” said Ben-Gvir. “This is a grave mistake.” He added that Israel should not allow any equipment to enter Gaza until Israelis held captive are returned.
“If the international community doesn’t want to see pictures of [dead] children and civilians [in Gaza],” the women and children of Gaza should be sent to Scotland where the Scottish government has announced that it is ready to receive refugees from there. “Israel,” he said, “does not deal with humanitarian affairs.”
US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said on Monday that Washington does not support the current calls for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip. He stressed that they must be replaced by “temporary pauses” in hostilities to allow the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza.
More than three weeks after the outbreak of the war, calls continue for humanitarian aid to be allowed to get to civilians in the Gaza Strip, upon which Israel has imposed an “absolute siege” and cut off water, electricity, food supplies and fuel. The Rafah Border Crossing with Egypt, the only crossing not under full Israeli control, has been closed since the war broke out, apart from the limited entry of some aid trucks, but was reopened today for aid and to allow dual nationals to leave Gaza.
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) on Sunday, 33 trucks loaded with humanitarian aid entered the Gaza Strip through Rafah, bringing the total number of trucks to 117, including 70 trucks containing medical equipment, 60 trucks containing food and 13 other trucks containing water and sanitary equipment.
Kirby said that the number of humanitarian aid trucks entering the Gaza Strip through the Rafah Crossing will rise to about 100 per day in the coming days. At normal times, around 500 trucks a day enter the Gaza Strip.
Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that his government uses humanitarian aid to achieve its war goals. He insisted that Israel does not provide any aid to the besieged territory, and that the aid is provided by international parties. “The foodstuffs and medicines are inspected and monitored by Israeli security officials directly” before they enter the Gaza Strip through the Egyptian side of the Rafah Crossing. “All shipments are intended for the civilian population. If it turns out that Hamas has seized them, they will be stopped.”
Meanwhile, the Commissioner General of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) warned that the current arrangement for taking humanitarian aid into Gaza through Rafah is “doomed to failure”. Philippe Lazzarini condemned Israel’s imposition of “collective punishment” on the residents of Gaza in its war against the Hamas movement.
“Let me be clear; the handful of convoys being allowed through Rafah is nothing compared to the needs of over two million people trapped in Gaza. The current arrangement… is doomed to failure unless there is a political will to make the flow of aid serious and proportionate with the unprecedented humanitarian needs.”