23 June 2024
0 9 mins 3 weeks

Conditions in Gaza are “worse now than ever before,” Samantha Power, head of the U.S. Agency for International Development, said Thursday, as Israel’s offensive into Gaza proceeds and the United Nations says food shipments have dropped by two-thirds.

Citing humanitarian groups working in Gaza, Power said that Israel’s military operations and the closure of border crossings “are making it extremely difficult to distribute aid.”

Efforts to deliver aid to Gaza have been hampered by the Israeli push into Rafah, the southern city where over 1 million Palestinians had been sheltering. A border crossing between Egypt and Gaza used to deliver aid has been shut since early May, when Israel began ordering civilians to evacuate Rafah and moving ground forces into the city.

Israel maintains that the last battalions of Hamas are inside Rafah, as well as the remaining hostages held by the militant group. Tzachi Hanegbi, Israel’s national security adviser, said Wednesday that destroying Hamas and other militant groups will take “another seven months,” adding that 2024 would be “a year of war.”

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said late Wednesday that the amount of food entering Gaza since the Rafah offensive began has shrunk by around 70 percent. Between April 1 and May 6, a daily average of 176 aid trucks entered the besieged enclave — a number “already insufficient to meet the soaring needs,” according to the agency. Since the May 7 start of the Rafah operation, the daily average has dwindled to 58 aid trucks. The agency said the figures do not include private sector cargo and fuel deliveries.

The figures shared by OCHA differ from those published by Israeli authorities. The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the Israeli agency that oversees the Palestinian territories, said 335 humanitarian aid trucks “were transferred to Gaza” just on Wednesday — similar to the daily figures the agency shared before May 7. The U.N. agencies and Israeli authorities have disputed each other’s figures before.

The discrepancy arises from how the trucks are counted: While Israel includes in its tally all those that enter Gaza, including commercial goods, aid groups refer only to the aid that is collected and actually distributed.

Israeli restrictions on the movement of humanitarian groups around Gaza and the border crossings, as well as the ongoing fighting, have turned the collection of aid into a lengthy and arduous progress, the United Nations says, making it hard to collect and distribute anything at scale.

The Israeli human rights organization Gisha said Wednesday that it was “deeply concerned” over reports that COGAT was prioritizing the entry of commercial goods over humanitarian supplies into Gaza.

“Humanitarian aid should come in very first thing. They should be given clearance on the roads to drive safely to reach where they need to reach. And then — only then — the private sector should be able to come in.” said Tania Hary, Gisha’s executive director.

“You really have these two sort of parallel realities of the food coming in as the majority of the population is not able to afford it.”

OCHA and COGAT did not immediately respond to requests for comment from The Washington Post on Thursday.

Meanwhile, a U.S. effort to repair a floating pier off the cost of Gaza to enable aid deliveries by ship — a mission meant to help alleviate the pressure on land border crossings — has faced serious setbacks. Deliveries over the pier were suspended this week after a section broke free in heavy seas and floated away.

Israeli war cabinet member Benny Gantz’s political party submitted a bill Thursday to dissolve parliament. The National Unity party said in a statement the bill had been submitted to dissolve the Knesset and hold elections by October. It added that Oct. 7 “was a disaster that requires us to return to the people and earn their trust, so that we may form a stable and broad unity government.” Earlier this month Gantz threatened to resign from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition government by June 8 if Netanyahu did not come up with a viable plan for after the Gaza war ends. It’s unclear how far the bill will advance as Netanyahu’s Likud party still has a majority of seats in parliament. Likud said in a statement in response that “during a war, Israel needs to remain united, not divided.”

China’s president Xi Jinping said the war in Gaza can’t go on “indefinitely,” as he reiterated his support for a two-state solution. “The war cannot continue indefinitely, justice should not be absent forever, and commitment to the two-state solution” should not be abandoned, Xi told a meeting of senior officials from Arab League nations in Beijing on Thursday. The Chinese leader announced $69 million in emergency humanitarian aid to Gaza and pledged $3 million to UNRWA.

A majority of Israelis support their country’s military response to Hamas in Gaza but are divided over its scope, according to a survey by Pew Research published Thursday. The survey found 39 percent of Israelis said that the country’s military response against Hamas in Gaza has been about right, and 34 percent said it has not gone far enough — indicating continued support for the war.

The Palestine Red Crescent Society said Israel was responsible for an attack that killed two paramedics in Rafah. The aid organization said Israeli forces bombed an ambulance “despite it bearing the internationally protected Red Crescent emblem.” It said the paramedics, Haitham Tubasi and Suhail Hassouna, “were targeted by the Israeli occupation” late Wednesday “in the Tel Sultan area west of Rafah.” Gaza’s Health Ministry condemned the attack as a “heinous crime.” The Post could not independently verify the accounts.

Israel said it achieved “tactical control” over the boundary that separates Gaza and Egypt. An official with the Israel Defense Forces, speaking Wednesday on the condition of anonymity to brief reporters, said that while Israel does not have “boots on the ground” throughout the boundary, known as the Philadelphi corridor, its control means Israel can cut off Hamas supplies via underground tunnels in the corridor. This represents a significant success for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has repeatedly described control of the area as an objective.

Algeria put forward a draft resolution to the United Nations Security Council calling for a halt to Israel’s military offensive in Rafah and an immediate cease-fire. It also calls for the release of all hostages held by Hamas and an increase in humanitarian aid into the enclave. A vote is expected in the coming days. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said the United States was reviewing the resolution. It is unclear whether the U.S. will use its veto power to vote down the proposal.

At least 36,224 people have been killed and 81,777 injured in Gaza since the war began, said the Gaza Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between civilians and combatants but says the majority of the dead are women and children. Israel estimates about 1,200 people were killed in Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack, including more than 300 soldiers, and it says 291 soldiers have been killed since the launch of its military operations in Gaza.

Lior Soroka, Heba Farouk Mahfouz, Lyric Li, Dan Lamothe, Alex Horton, Niha Masih, John Hudson and Susannah George contributed to this report.

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