Aid for Israeli captives, Palestinians reaches Gaza despite challenges

Shipment of medical supplies, other aid is being distributed as part of a deal brokered by Qatar and France.

Airport workers unload crates with aid delivered from Qatar, destined for Gaza
Airport workers unload crates with aid delivered from Qatar, destined for Gaza, at El Arish International Airport, Arish, Egypt, January 17, 2024 [Handout/Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs via Reuters]

A shipment of medical supplies and other aid for Israeli captives and Palestinian civilians has entered the Gaza Strip as part of an agreement mediated by Qatar and France between Israel and Hamas.

The aid delivery is the first deal agreed to by Israel and the Palestinian group, and marks some progress, since a short-lived truce ended on December 1.

“The humanitarian aid trucks allowed into southern Gaza are not enough to meet people’s desperate needs,” said Al Jazeera’s Hani Mahmoud, reporting from Rafah in the south of the Strip on Thursday.

The shipment arrived on Wednesday, Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Majed al-Ansari confirmed. It is set to be distributed by the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS).

“Over the past few hours, medicine & aid entered the Gaza Strip, in implementation of the agreement announced yesterday for the benefit of civilians in the Strip, including hostages,” al-Ansari posted on X.

Al Jazeera’s Hamdah Salhut, reporting from occupied East Jerusalem, noted that “getting there wasn’t so easy”.

The process was mired in “complexities”, our correspondent said, as Hamas was under the impression the aid would not be inspected on entering Gaza, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denied such an agreement, triggering “political turmoil” within his government.

Under the agreement, 45 captives held by Hamas are to receive prescription medicines, while supplies for Palestinian civilians are to be distributed in parts of the besieged enclave which has been relentlessly bombarded by Israeli forces, leaving the entire population facing crisis levels of hunger and at growing risk from disease.

More than 100 of the 240 or so captives taken by Hamas during its assault in southern Israel on October 7 were freed during a November truce when some Palestinian prisoners were also released.

Aid not enough for Gaza’s needs

Al Jazeera’s Mahmoud said that at least 10 trucks were allowed in, adding that “the packages they brought included supplies for depleted hospitals”.

“Palestinians here have grown used to a routine of queueing up for more than half a day just to get aid or food stamps. It is incredibly difficult because the amount of humanitarian relief coming in is so little compared to the needs of more than 1.9 million displaced Palestinians,” he added.

INTERACTIVE - Everyone in Gaza is hungry-1705506567

The PRCS said on Wednesday that 146 trucks carrying humanitarian aid entered from the Israeli-controlled Karem Abu Salem crossing – called Kerem Shalom in Israel – while 48 trucks entered Gaza’s Rafah crossing with Egypt carrying food, water and medical supplies, in addition to 12 commercial trucks.

A senior Hamas official said that for every box provided for the captives, 1,000 boxes of medicines would be sent for Palestinians.

France’s ambassador to Israel, Frederic Journes, told Israeli public radio station Kan that he hoped this agreement would be a “first humanitarian step” to seeing the remaining Israeli captives released.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies