Twenty trucks carrying aid crossed into Gaza on Saturday, the first convoy of humanitarian supplies since Israel began a devastating siege 12 days ago and after further heavy Israeli bombardment overnight that killed dozens of Palestinians.
Since the Hamas attacks on Israel on October 7, which left 1,400 dead, Israel has launched devastating air and ground bombardments of Gaza. The Hamas authorities say 4,385 people have died.
US President Joe Biden had said earlier this week that agreement had been reached for the aid trucks to enter via southern Gaza Strip’s Rafah border point with Egypt. The flatbed trucks, flying white flags and honking their horns, exited the crossing after checks and headed into Gaza’s southern area which includes the major towns of Rafah and Khan Younis where hundreds of thousands of people made homeless by Israel’s unrelenting air war are sheltering.
A picture taken from the Israeli side of the border with the Gaza Strip shows smoke rising over the norther-western part of the Palestinian enclave during an Israeli bombing attack. PHOTO: AFP
Palestinian officials were disappointed that fuel supplies were not included in the consignment of food, water and medical supplies and added that the aid was only 3% of what used to get into Gaza before the crisis. “Excluding the fuel from the humanitarian aid means the lives of patients and injured will remain at risk. Gaza hospitals are running out of the basic requirements to pursue medical interventions,” the Gaza health ministry said.
Israel’s “total siege” of Gaza, launched after the Oct 7 cross-border attack on southern Israel by Hamas fighters, has left the enclave’s 2.3 million people running out of food, water, medicines and fuel.
Palistinians check the rubble of a building destroyed in an Israeli bombardment in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. PHOTO: AFP
The United Nations said the convoy included life-saving supplies would be received and distributed by the Palestinian Red Crescent, with the consent of Hamas, which rules Gaza.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken welcomed the opening but echoed a warning from Israel that no aid should end up in Hamas hands. “We urge all parties to keep the Rafah crossing open to enable the continued movement of aid that is imperative to the welfare of the people of Gaza,” Blinken said in a statement. “We have been clear: Hamas must not interfere with the provision of this life-saving assistance.”
A formation of Israeli tanks is positioned near Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip. PHOTO: Reuters
UN officials say at least 100 trucks daily are needed and that any aid operation must be sustainable at scale — a tall order with Israel carrying out bombardments day and night that have wrecked entire populated districts. Before the outbreak of conflict, an average of about 450 aid trucks were arriving daily in Gaza.
‘SOME WAY TO GO’
Overnight, Israeli fighter jets struck a “large number of Hamas terror targets throughout” Gaza including command centres and combat positions inside multi-storey buildings, the military said in a statement. Gaza’s Health Ministry and Hamas media said Israeli aircraft targeted several family houses across Gaza, killing at least 50 people and injuring dozens.
Hamas said it fired rockets towards Israeli’s biggest city Tel Aviv on Saturday in response to those deaths. The Israeli military reported a fresh salvo of rockets from Gaza against southern Israeli border communities before dawn.
A senior Israeli military official who declined to be named said Israel had killed “a few thousand” Hamas fighters in the war. “It is not enough. We need to take more … We are looking at a long campaign. They are already hurting, but there is still some way to go,” he said.
He said the air force had targeted some militants in their own homes, including overnight, and acknowledged civilians living nearby might have been hurt.