Israel has said it will set up additional inspection checkpoints for humanitarian aid trucks bound for the Gaza Strip, but they will only be allowed to enter through a single border crossing which will have little effect on the actual supplies reaching the besieged enclave.
The Rafah crossing between southern Gaza and Egypt is the only point where a limited amount of aid is allowed to enter the territory, and the bottlenecked frontier has been unable to cope with the volume of vehicles heading in.
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“In theory [the extra inspections points] should help,” as more trucks would be going through the required security process, Al Jazeera’s Alan Fisher reported from occupied East Jerusalem on Tuesday, of the point at Karem Abu Salem, known as Kerem Shalom in Israel. Similar checks were already being carried out at the Nitzana post.
“But there are people within the Israeli government who don’t want to see trucks travelling from Israel into Gaza delivering aid,” so the trucks are forced to drive around to reach the Rafah crossing in Egypt, our correspondent said.
This then leaves the reality on the ground unchanged since Rafah cannot process so many trucks in one day and ultimately the extra screenings will not affect the actual aid entering Gaza.
Compounding this is the fact that the Red Cross feels that the Rafah crossing is unsafe since Israel’s assault is now focused on southern Gaza, where destroyed roads further exacerbate the peril facing the aid deliveries, Fisher said.
Despite repeated calls from world leaders, international humanitarian groups and United Nations officials to allow more aid into Gaza, Israel stressed on Monday that no new direct crossings will be opened, but that Kerem Shalom will be used to carry out checks before sending the trucks through Rafah.
“This is being done to improve the volume of security screenings of aid entering Gaza via the Rafah Crossing and will enable us to double the amount of humanitarian aid entering Gaza,” the army said on X.
The additional checkpoint will screen “trucks containing water, food, medical supplies and shelter equipment”, according to a joint statement from the Israeli army and COGAT, the defence ministry body responsible for Palestinian civilian affairs.
Currently, only about 100 trucks cross into Gaza through Rafah daily, UN humanitarian agency OCHA said at the weekend. This is only half of the bare minimum 200 recommended by the UN to meet the basic needs of the population, whereas the number stood at 500 before the war.
Philippe Lazzarini, the head of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), described an “implosion of civil order” in which Gaza Palestinians who had not eaten for days looted aid distribution centres and stopped trucks on roads as they tried to secure supplies for their families.
On Tuesday, he called for “an end to this hell on earth”.
Back in #Gaza, endless deepening tragedy. People are everywhere, live in the street, need everything. They plead for safety & for an end to this hell on earth.
Our colleagues are asked to do the impossible in what is an impossible situation. pic.twitter.com/iiBFfk2rBG
— Philippe Lazzarini (@UNLazzarini) December 12, 2023
“The assault on southern Gaza has been no less than the north. It’s raging through Khan Younis at the moment, and it is threatening Rafah. The compression of the population is greater. We cannot be sure of any of our points of operation to be safe,” Martin Griffiths, the UN humanitarian affairs coordinator, told Al Jazeera.
Griffiths added that UN aid workers were operating on a form of “humanitarian opportunism” in the Gaza Strip which is not the typical characteristic of a humanitarian operation, which includes a level of dependability and safety, both for aid workers and for the people they serve.
The UN General Assembly will meet later on Tuesday to discuss the humanitarian crisis and call for a pause in hostilities, after the United States last week vetoed a UN Security Council resolution for a truce.