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US Senators slam Israel’s control of aid delivery into Gaza as ‘totally broken’

January 9, 2024 at 3:11 pm

Israeli officers check trucks carrying humanitarian aid and food at Kerem Shalom border crossing in Israel on December 22, 2023 [Enes Canlı – Anadolu Agency]

Hundreds of aid-laden trucks at the Rafah Border Crossing face weeks’-long delays entering Gaza, with a warehouse storing items rejected by Israeli inspectors, including crucial medical supplies to help deliver babies and water testing equipment, according to US Senators, Chris Van Hollen. and Jeff Merkley.

The Senators described the system safeguarding aid deliveries in Gaza from Israeli forces’ attacks as “totally broken”, highlighting the cumbersome process resulting from Israeli inspections.

“What struck me yesterday was the miles of backed-up trucks. We couldn’t count, but there were hundreds,” Merkley said in a briefing with Van Hollen to a group of reporters in Cairo.

Israel imposed a complete siege on Gaza on 9 October, banning aid and fuel from entering the Strip. Now, some 2.2 million Palestinians face starvation with only 6,459 trucks of aid, including fuel, entering the Strip in the first 90 days of the Occupation State’s bombing campaign. Prior to the war on Gaza, 45,000 trucks would have entered the Strip over that period.

According to the UN, nearly the entire population relies on border-crossing trucks for survival in Gaza, where one in four Palestinians suffer starvation. Moreover, over 85 per cent of Gaza’s residents have been displaced due to Israeli bombardment, living in overcrowded UN shelters, tent camps or on the streets. The overwhelmed hospitals grapple with injuries, diseases and collapsed sanitation systems.

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Senators Van Hollen and Merkley emphasised the need for a streamlined aid delivery process during their three-day visit to Egypt, where they engaged with officials, UN agencies and NGOs working in Gaza.

After the Israeli military expanded its land occupation in Gaza, the Karm Abu Salem Crossing, through which goods entered Gaza from Israel, was closed. Humanitarian aid entering Gaza from the Rafah Border Crossing in Egypt is subject to Israeli control.

Israel claims the inspections are necessary to prevent items of military use from reaching Hamas. However, if a single item is rejected, the entire truck must return for repackaging, restarting the weeks’-long process, according to Senator Van Hollen.

Reasons for rejection are often “very vague, and they are conveyed informally. Sometimes, they were very unreasonable,” noted Senator Merkley. The Senators observed a warehouse in Rafah filled with rejected material, including oxygen cylinders, gas-powered generators, tents and medical kits for childbirth.

Aid workers informed the Senators that tents were rejected due to the inclusion of metal poles and medical kits were refused because they contained scalpels. Most solar-powered equipment is also prohibited, despite its essential role in Gaza, where there is a collapse of central electricity and a shortage of fuel for generators.

“The warehouse was a testament to the arbitrariness” of the process, said Van Hollen.

Additionally, Senator Merkley emphasised that the current process is “completely incompatible” with the scale of the humanitarian crisis, calling for a simplified procedure that addresses both Israel’s concerns and the urgency of the situation.

The Senators, both members of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, are working on recommendations for changes.

Israel has launched air and ground attacks on the Gaza Strip since a cross-border attack by Palestinian Resistance group, Hamas, on 7 October.

At least 23,084 Palestinians have since been killed and 58,926 others injured, according to Gaza’s health authorities, while nearly 1,200 Israelis are believed to have been killed in the Hamas attack.

However, since then, it has been revealed by Haaretz that helicopters and tanks of the Israeli army had, in fact, killed many of the 1,139 soldiers and civilians claimed by Israel to have been killed by the Palestinian Resistance.

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