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Generators, flashlights and urinals: the aid to Gaza that Israel blocks on the grounds that it does not reach Hamas

2024-02-22T05:04:19.712Z

Highlights: More than four months since the beginning of the Israeli ground invasion, aid continues to arrive in Gaza in quantities far below those needed. The main reason is that supply shipping operations continue to clash with a very restricted, slow and confusing process imposed by Israel. Israel only allows aid to reach Gaza through two border crossings: Rafah, which connects with Egypt and is the main route, and Kerem Shalom, which links to Israel. If Israeli authorities reject a single item, the truck will have to return to Egypt, drop off the entire load, repackage and repeat the process.


Supplies to the Strip flow in dribs and drabs despite the humanitarian crisis due to bureaucratic obstacles, exhausting inspections and arbitrary entry criteria, according to NGOs.


Oxygen cylinders, generators, medical supplies and hundreds of water purifiers and solar-powered objects.

The list of essential items to which Israeli authorities have denied access to Gaza citing security reasons since the beginning of their military offensive in the Strip is long.

And it illustrates the severe restrictions and difficulties humanitarian agencies face in getting vital supplies to a population trapped in increasingly desperate conditions.

More than four months since the beginning of the Israeli ground invasion, aid continues to arrive in Gaza in quantities far below those needed.

The main reason, as described to EL PAÍS by humanitarian agencies and NGOs, human rights organizations and officials who have visited the border, is that supply shipping operations continue to clash with a very restricted, slow and confusing process imposed by Israel.

This includes bureaucratic obstacles, limits on entry points, grueling inspections, arbitrary and inconsistent criteria for what items can pass through, and the lack of guarantees and conditions for their distribution once inside the Palestinian enclave.

“Humanitarian aid [is used] as a weapon of war: not only has the [Gaza] infrastructure necessary for life been destroyed, but the obstruction of aid is another element of this war by the Israeli army ”says Spanish MEP Soraya Rodríguez, who visited the border between Egypt and Gaza in December with other European legislators to follow the operations of sending humanitarian aid.

75% of Gaza's population, some 1.7 million people, are displaced by the attacks and successive relocation orders by the Israeli army.

The majority are overcrowded in Rafah, at the southern end of the Strip, on the border with Egypt, in the midst of a serious humanitarian crisis.

There is an acute shortage of shelter, water, food and medicine.

The risk of famine looms.

And critical infrastructure has been destroyed.

Despite the immense needs of its population, Israel only allows aid to reach Gaza through two border crossings: Rafah, which connects with Egypt and is the main route, and Kerem Shalom, which links to Israel.

Aid began flowing through Rafah in late October, after two weeks of a complete Israeli blockade.

And in December Israel partially reopened Kerem Shalom — Karem Abu Salem, in Arabic — after strong diplomatic pressure.

Before entering Gaza, however, the cargo of humanitarian trucks has to be inspected in Israel.

This forces convoys entering through Rafah to have to detour about 40 kilometers to the south, to a border post between Egypt and Israel, which, along with Kerem Shalom, is the only point where controls are carried out.

Furthermore, if Israeli authorities reject a single item, the truck will have to return to Egypt, drop off the entire load, repackage and repeat the process, says Tamara Alrifai, a spokeswoman for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA.

Most days there are drones flying over the area.

“Every delay means we are delaying vital aid,” laments Ahmed Bayram, an adviser to the Norwegian Refugee Council.

Goods for civil and military use

Israel's truck inspection policy precedes the ongoing military offensive, and targets items that define dual use, that is, civilian goods that could be used for military purposes.

A spokesperson for the Israeli Ministry of Defense unit in charge of coordinating civil affairs in the occupied Palestinian territories, COGAT, assures this newspaper that Israel does not limit aid to Gaza that includes food, water, medicine, medical equipment and shelter supplies. .

He also claims there have been no changes to the dual-use goods policy, defined in a 2007 law, since the start of the military campaign.

“We have to ensure that all humanitarian aid convoys that enter Gaza do so with humanitarian aid, not military aid,” justifies Kobi Michael, former head of the Palestinian section of the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs.

Human rights groups, however, point out that Israel's dual-use criteria are very broad and exceed international standards.

And there is no detailed list of these supposed articles on which humanitarian agencies can rely, which leaves a lot of room for arbitrariness, especially in crisis contexts like the current one.

“There is not much transparency, even less than before, so we do not know exactly what Israel's policy is at the moment,” notes Tania Hary, director of Gisha, an Israeli organization defending the right of movement in the occupied territories.

Among the goods that have been blocked are water purifiers, medical supplies, solar-powered items and oxygen pumps, according to a December list from the Egyptian Red Crescent consulted by EL PAÍS.

Other media have pointed out sleeping bags, fire hoses, powdered drinks, flashlights, stretchers and urinals.

“There are many things,” says Alrifai of UNRWA, the main humanitarian actor in Gaza.

Another obstacle that prevents increasing the shipment of aid to Gaza is that Rafah is not a goods crossing and is not enabled for a large humanitarian operation.

The Kerem Shalom crossing was the main entry route for aid and commercial goods before October.

But the Israeli authorities close it for half of Friday and Saturday, and two or three times a week they use it for other purposes, such as returning prisoners and on one occasion returning bodies, says Alrifai.

The crossing has been repeatedly blocked by Israeli protests tolerated by authorities.

“Although it is said that Kerem Shalom is officially open for humanitarian trucks, in reality we cannot use it every day, and we continue to depend almost entirely on Rafah,” Alrifai denounces.

Since the reopening of Kerem Shalom, the daily average of humanitarian trucks entering Gaza, including through Rafah, has not exceeded 156 in any week, and the maximum number that has crossed in seven days has been less than 1,100, according to the tally from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Before the military offensive in the Strip, an average of 500 trucks entered every working day.

No guarantees inside

Further slowing down the process, trucks entering Gaza through Rafah unload their cargo at the Palestinian terminal at the crossing and the aid is loaded onto other trucks already inside the Strip.

From here begins the challenge of distributing humanitarian supplies within the enclave, whose critical infrastructure – including roads and communications – have been devastated, and where convoys cannot move freely, but depend on the coordination and approval of the Israeli army. .

From the beginning of the year until mid-February, Israeli authorities fully or partially facilitated less than 20% of the 77 humanitarian missions to northern Gaza, with support to hospitals and water, hygiene and sanitation service facilities being some of the missions. most denied, according to OCHA.

In the case of missions that required coordination in the south of the Strip, 58% were facilitated.

OCHA also notes that Israel has not accepted any requests to early open military checkpoints inside Gaza to expedite aid distribution.

And it has reported an increase in programmatic interference with convoys, sometimes forcing their cancellation.

The UN World Food Program (WFP) also suspended deliveries of vital food aid to northern Gaza on Monday due to the chaos and violence encountered by its latest convoys due to the collapse of civil order in the Strip.

Israeli forces have also opened fire on UN humanitarian convoys and civilians gathering to receive supplies, according to human rights organizations.

Now, Israel's plans to extend its ground invasion of Rafah threaten to wipe out even the limited humanitarian action that exists.

Operations also risk collapsing if UNRWA has to cease its activity in Gaza due to lack of funds, after multiple Western donors cut their funding following the Israeli accusation – so far lacking public evidence – that some 40 of the agency's 13,000 workers in Gaza participated in the attack on Israel in October.

The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Karim Khan, has warned that preventing the delivery of humanitarian aid may constitute a crime.

And he has stressed that Israel must ensure that Gazans receive food, water and medical supplies.

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Source: elparis

All news articles on 2024-02-22

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