Israel making aid deliveries to Gaza unsafe – US envoy

Aprilia Rine

Israel making aid deliveries to Gaza unsafe – US envoy
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West Jerusalem has allegedly jeopardized humanitarian cargoes and failed to provide evidence of Hamas diverting them

US President Joe Biden’s administration has offered a rare criticism of Israel’s handling of aid shipments to Gaza, saying that killings of local police in the besieged Palestinian enclave have made it “virtually impossible” to safely deliver humanitarian supplies.

The recent deaths of police in Israeli airstrikes have resulted in the halting of security escorts for aid trucks in Gaza, leading to targeting of the cargoes by criminal gangs, said David Satterfield, Biden’s special Middle East envoy for humanitarian issues. Israeli protests near border crossings into Gaza have created another impediment, disrupting some of the shipments.

“We are working with the Israeli government, [and] with [the] Israeli military in seeing what solutions can be found here because everyone wants to see the assistance continue,” Satterfield said on Friday in an interview with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a foreign policy think tank in Washington.

The UN and other distributors of humanitarian aid have been unable to safely move their shipments in Gaza following Israel’s recent attacks on police, including a commander whose units provided security for the trucks, Satterfield said. Some of those officers had links to Hamas, which Israel has vowed to destroy, but the resumption of security escorts will be needed to make safe deliveries possible, he explained.

Nearly 29,000 people have been killed in Gaza since the Israel-Hamas war began in October. The UN has reported that 85% of Gazans have been displaced by the fighting, and 570,000 people are starving.

Israeli officials have repeatedly claimed that Hamas is intercepting aid shipments for its own use, including food and fuel, but Satterfield said West Jerusalem had not provided “specific evidence of diversion or theft.” UN agencies have denied the Israeli allegations of aid diversions by Hamas.

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Desperate Gazans, including children, often try to stop the aid trucks to grab supplies. Satterfield said the recent disruptions to aid deliveries have made the supplies more valuable on the black market, creating greater incentive for criminal gangs to steal them.

An estimated 1.4 million Gazans displaced by Israeli bombardments have been crammed into Rafah, a city on the enclave’s southern border that normally has a population of around 280,000. Living conditions are deteriorating because most of the refugees lack adequate shelter, sanitation and potable water, Satterfield said. “How do you fix this? You decompress this enormous, imposed dislocation and you allow folks to go to suitable shelter, with humanitarian access and support, back to the places they came from or to safer areas.”

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