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Israel says it’s boosting Gaza aid but U.N. says little has changed

JERUSALEM — In the week since President Biden warned Israel to quickly address civilian suffering in Gaza — or risk future U.S. support — Israeli officials have touted what they see as a number record number of aid trucks entering the country, one of many new measures taken by the government. maintains will help alleviate the crisis.

But according to the UN and other humanitarian officials, as well as aid workers in Gaza, little has really changed on the ground – and access to aid remains as complicated and risky as ever, even though much of the population is rushing towards famine.

Despite Israel’s emphasis on the number of trucks – it says more than 1,200 trucks have entered Gaza in the past three days – the volume of aid has not increased significantly, and it nor does it reach those who need it most. The government’s most concrete promises to reopen a crossing in northern Gaza, bring bakeries back online and establish clear channels of coordination with aid workers have yet to yield results.

“The concrete proof will be when this happens beyond words,” Jamie McGoldrick, acting U.N. humanitarian coordinator for the Palestinian territories, said of the steps Israel has pledged to take. “They are under pressure to deliver something.”

Biden’s ultimatum to Israel last week, delivered in a phone call with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was prompted by the killing of seven World Central Kitchen employees by Israeli forces on April 1, recalling the environment perilous environment in which humanitarian agencies operate.

Six months into the conflict, which began when Hamas militants killed around 1,200 people in Israel and took 253 others hostage on October 7, the challenges of getting more food, medicine and other aid to the Palestinians are those of life or death. More than 33,500 people have already been killed and more than 76,000 injured, according to Gaza’s health ministry, which does not distinguish between civilians and combatants but says the majority of victims are women and children.

An estimated 95 percent of the country’s 2.2 million people are experiencing critical levels of hunger, and health authorities say at least 32 people had died of malnutrition or dehydration by early April. In northern Gaza, which the Israeli army has isolated from the rest of the enclave, famine may already be underway, the world’s leading food crisis organization said last month.

Israeli officials have said they do not want to be held responsible for Gaza and instead want to focus on the military campaign to eliminate Hamas. But growing U.S. pressure on Netanyahu to halt the worsening calamity has prompted the prime minister to change course, according to an Israeli official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the decision. high-level decision-making.

The White House said last week it would ensure Israel takes “concrete, tangible steps” to significantly improve humanitarian access, with Biden calling the crisis in Gaza “unacceptable.”

In response, McGoldrick’s office said Saturday, Israel committed to reopening the Erez crossing in northern Gaza, restarting about 20 bakeries and repairing a major water pipe.

As of Thursday, aid officials said, those plans had been discussed but were mostly not close to coming to fruition.

McGoldrick said that in the coming days, U.N. teams would “assess the logistics and security of Erez,” which was heavily damaged in the Oct. 7 attack and was only ever designed for pedestrian traffic. Israel also announced it would build a new crossing to deliver aid to the north.

This will help “gradually” increase the total number of trucks entering Gaza to around 500 per day, said Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, an Israeli army spokesman. This is the same figure that sustained the enclave before the war, although swaths of Gaza’s farmland and agricultural capacity have been wiped out since then.

It was unclear when exactly the new crossing would be built.

“Israel increases its aid to Gaza, with more than 1,200 trucks entering in 3 days (on average 400/day),” the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) published on Wednesday on X.

The agency, a branch of the Israeli military that coordinates aid to Gaza, was promoting the growing number of trucks it says it inspects every day entering the enclave’s border crossings. He blames the delays in aid distribution on the United Nations and other international agencies operating in Gaza. Israel has cited photographs of crates full of aid apparently waiting to be distributed as proof that aid groups are not doing their jobs.

But the United Nations only records in its database trucks that physically enter Gaza, and UNRWA, the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees, recorded a lower figure for the same three-day period this week, with an average of 168 humanitarian trucks every day across the country. the Rafah and Kerem Shalom crossing points to the south.

Aid workers say Israeli regulations regarding access to crossing points mean they are often not allowed to access the supplies waiting for them. COGAT did not respond to requests for comment on how it addressed the obstacles cited by humanitarian groups.

“It doesn’t mean we have unlimited access to collect them,” said an aid worker engaged in operations at the crossing point, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue. “Sometimes we only have partial access in the afternoon. Sometimes we only get a chance to pick up the bulk of the aid in the morning. Sometimes, if there is fog or poor visibility in the corridor, we do not have access to it at all.

At the same time, the inspection process remains onerous and opaque, officials say, and agencies often don’t know what kind of aid they are collecting until they reach the Gaza side of the crossing.

“Let’s say UNICEF has 10 trucks of medicine, 10 trucks of nutritional treatments. Once they are subject to control, we lose visibility,” said Tess Ingram, spokesperson for the UN children’s agency. “When we get to the recipient, there might be a truckload of medicine and a truckload of food, and then the next day, maybe three truckloads of something. It’s very difficult for us to plan on the other end of the line because we have no visibility into what is going to be spit out when.”

Trucks entering Gaza from Egypt are sometimes only half full or have less capacity than the United Nations uses to collect and distribute aid – another reason why figures collected by aid groups and the Israeli army are often different.

“They can send out more than 300 trucks a day, but we can’t process and get more than 300 trucks out,” McGoldrick said.

Humanitarian groups must then coordinate with the Israeli military to safely access areas where civilians are most in need.

Food convoys traveling north are three times more likely to be denied permission by Israel than any other humanitarian convoy, Jens Laerke, spokesperson for the UN humanitarian office, said Tuesday during a press briefing.

“When you present statistics about the number of trucks coming in and say, ‘Look at all these hundreds of trucks coming in,’ and you compare them to the few trucks that actually moved – well, that’s sort of your own goal, right?” is not it ? he said. “Half of the convoys we tried to send north with food were refused by these same Israeli authorities. »

McGoldrick said he was scheduled to meet with representatives of the Israeli army’s Southern Command on Wednesday to discuss the creation of a coordination cell capable of disrupting the movements of humanitarians on the battlefield and preventing further tragedies like the death of WCK workers – one of Israel’s promises. following Biden’s call.

“We need a system that works,” McGoldrick said.

But ten days after the WCK strike, aid workers themselves still fear being targeted. Around 200 aid workers have been killed in Gaza over the past six months.

UNICEF said one of its convoys was waiting to enter northern Gaza on Tuesday when it was hit by gunfire that appeared to come from Israeli forces. The convoy was carrying 10,000 liters of fuel to supply water and sanitation points, as well as food and medical supplies to Kamal Adwan Hospital, which reported children dying there from malnutrition and dehydration.

The agency’s armored vehicle was hit three times as the group waited at a U.N.-designated stopping point along a route coordinated with Israeli forces, said Ingram, who was traveling with the convoy .

“We were shot three times in our car – two to the passenger door and one to the hood,” Ingram said.

After the shooting stopped, the group communicated what had happened to Israeli forces through UNRWA security personnel, she said. The Israeli military did not respond to a request for comment on the incident.

“It is clear that eight days after the tragedy at World Central Kitchen, there were no measures in place to prevent something like this from happening,” Ingram said.

Parker reported from Cairo and Morris from Berlin.

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jack colman

With a penchant for words, jack began writing at an early age. As editor-in-chief of his high school newspaper, he honed his skills telling impactful stories. Smith went on to study journalism at Columbia University, where he graduated top of his class.After interning at the New York Times, jack landed a role as a news writer. Over the past decade, he has covered major events like presidential elections and natural disasters. His ability to craft compelling narratives that capture the human experience has earned him acclaim.Though writing is his passion, jack also enjoys hiking, cooking and reading historical fiction in his free time. With an eye for detail and knack for storytelling, he continues making his mark at the forefront of journalism.
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