Aid is still not reaching Gaza, as a top US official warns

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A promised surge in aid into Gaza that Benjamin Netanyahu promised Joe Biden a week ago has so far failed to materialise, aid workers say, as the US aid chief confirmed that famine is beginning to take hold in parts of the besieged coastal strip.
The increase in the number of truck crossing into Gaza claimed by Israel conflicts with UN records and already appears to be faltering.
Israeli officials had been promising their US counterparts for weeks that a crossing point would be opened into northern Gaza where the starvation is the most severe.
Aid officials say the amount of food getting into the coastal strip is far short of what is needed to fend off an impending famine, particularly in the north.
The UN relief agency, Unrwa, said however that after a brief peak of 246 on Tuesday, the numbers of trucks crossing into Gaza had fallen by Wednesday to 141.
Furthermore Israel counts trucks crossing into the border area.
Cogat published a picture on X on Thursday, which it said showed the cargoes of 600 aid trucks waiting to be collected on the Gaza side of Kerem Shalom.
There is also a shortage of willing drivers after repeated incidents of aid trucks coming under fire, of which the WCK bombing has been the worst but far from an isolated incident.

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Relief workers report that despite Benjamin Netanyahu’s assurance to Joe Biden a week ago, there has been no significant influx of aid into Gaza. Meanwhile, the US chief humanitarian officer has confirmed that famine is starting to spread throughout some areas of the besieged coastal strip.

According to Israel, the number of trucks entering Gaza has increased, but this claim appears to be faltering and is at odds with UN data.

Former senior official in the Biden administration and current president of Refugees International, an advocacy group for aid, Jeremy Konyndyk, said, “There is a lot less than meets the eye so far.”. Really, not much has changed. “.

According to the Israel N12 channel, Netanyahu promised Biden that he would open the Ashdod port, which is located north of Gaza, to allow for the delivery of humanitarian aid by sea. However, there has been no sign of this promise being fulfilled. According to N12, no directives regarding opening the Ashdod Port to shipments headed for Gaza have been given to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (Cogat), or the Ashdod Port authorities thus far.

For weeks, Israeli and US officials had been promising that a crossing point into northern Gaza, where the worst of the starvation is occurring, would be opened. They informed Washington that it would either be at a new location or at Erez, the main border crossing point prior to the current war. But no choice was taken until Wednesday, six days following the Biden-Netanyahu call, when Yoav Gallant, the minister of defense, announced that work on a new crossing had started. The duration of that construction work is unknown.

There is no set deadline for the completion of the two additional measures that Israel was required to take in order to boost the amount of aid. In order to prevent humanitarian missions from being bombed like the World Central Kitchen (WCK) convoy on April 1, which resulted in the deaths of seven of its aid workers, one is a coordination center where representatives of aid agencies and Israeli operational commanders are expected to convene.

The other is a brand-new security checkpoint where Israeli monitors can check trucks carrying aid en route to northern Gaza before they cross.

Aid workers claim that the quantity of food entering the coastal strip falls well short of what is required to prevent an impending famine, especially in the north. The first American official to openly acknowledge that famine had already spread to at least some areas of Gaza was Samantha Power, the director of USAID, the country’s humanitarian and development agency, on Wednesday.

Power testified before a congressional committee that her staff had examined and deemed “credible” a mid-March assessment by specialists on food insecurity that suggested a famine may break out between the end of that month and mid-May.

Congressman Joaquin Castro, a Democrat, questioned her, “So famine is already occurring there?”.

She answered, “That is—yes.”.

Three primary criteria were employed by the independent assessment, which went by the name of the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC): the number of households experiencing acute food insecurity, the number of children experiencing acute malnutrition, and the number of adult deaths from starvation or the co-occurrence of disease and starvation. Two of the three benchmarks have already been attained or surpassed, according to the IPC report from March.

Power stated in her remarks that although the third threshold was hard to get to and that more information was required, USAID anticipated that it would be reached soon.

Israel claims that since Biden and Netanyahu’s call on April 4, the number of trucks entering Gaza each day has doubled to approximately 400.

However, the number of trucks entering Gaza through the border dropped to 141 on Wednesday, according to the UN relief agency Unrwa, from a brief peak of 246 on Tuesday.

It’s possible that private and NGO deliveries are included in the Israeli count, which would explain some of the disparity. Israel also keeps track of the number of trucks that enter the border region. As they move out of that region and into the remainder of Gaza, the UN counts them.

The contents of 600 relief trucks were reportedly visible in a photo that Cogat posted on X on Thursday, and it was claimed to depict the Gaza side of Kerem Shalom.

The tweet advised to “do your job.”. “The Israeli side is not the source of the bottlenecks. “.

Goods entering Gaza are screened before being delivered to its entry points, where they are unloaded on the Gazan side of the crossings and reloaded onto various trucks that operate inside the strip. This delivery system predates the current conflict.

The absence of trucks and drivers operating inside Gaza, according to US officials, is one of the major obstacles impeding the distribution of food.

The truck drivers who are in charge of the food deliveries, who are primarily Egyptian haulers, are hesitant to allow their cars to be used inside Gaza, though, for fear that the starving Gazans will bomb or loot them. In addition, a lack of willing drivers has resulted from numerous instances of aid trucks being shot at; the WCK bombing has been the worst of these, though it is by no means an isolated incident.

Even after it is completed, aid workers contend that as long as a large portion of Gaza remains a free fire zone, the proposed coordination center might not be enough to address this basic barrier to food delivery.

According to Konyndyk, “what needs to be fixed is guaranteeing and enabling aid operations a safe presence in all the parts of Gaza that needed it, starting with the north.”. Furthermore, not a single thing has changed.

In my opinion, the World Central Kitchen strike effectively highlights the fact that the issue is more complex than a mere inability to resolve conflicts amicably. Reliable deconfliction is nearly impossible due to the IDF’s battle practices and the rules of engagement on the front lines. “.

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