Aid flows to Gaza are increasing, UN says, but more needs to be done

Under intense international scrutiny, Israel has accelerated the flow of aid into Gaza this month, but aid groups say more is needed as severe hunger grips the enclave, particularly in the devastated north.

Israel's efforts – which include opening new aid routes – have been recognized in the past week by the Biden administration and international aid officials. More aid trucks appear to be reaching Gaza, especially in the north, where experts have been warning for weeks that famine is imminent.

The increase in aid levels is a good sign, but it is too early to say that the looming famine is no longer a risk, said Arif Husain, chief economist at the United Nations World Food Programme.

“This can't happen just for a day or a week: it has to happen every single day for the foreseeable future,” Husain said, adding that the main need is for more food, water and medicine. “If we can do that, then we can ease the pain and avoid famine.”

Humanitarian groups have long complained that only a small amount of aid is entering the enclave, blaming harsh war conditions, rigorous inspections and limits on the number of border crossings. Israel says the restrictions are necessary to ensure that neither weapons nor supplies end up in the hands of Hamas.

But under pressure from President Biden following an Israeli airstrike that killed seven World Central Kitchen aid workers, Israel announced this month it would open more aid routes.

Aid has since reached Gaza through new routes, including a partially functioning border crossing in northern Gaza and in the Israeli port city of Ashdod, about 20 miles north of the enclave.

Infrastructure work is underway to make the northern crossing permanent and to open another nearby, said Shani Sasson, spokeswoman for COGAT, the Israeli agency that oversees policy for the Palestinian territories and works with international organizations.

Now, according to Israeli and American officials, about 100 trucks a day are reaching the northern half of the Strip through two major southern crossings, compared to a total of 350 trucks during most of March.

Flour shipments from the World Food Program have begun arriving in Ashdod, Husain said, which has increased the reach and efficiency of flour deliveries particularly in northern Gaza. Four bakeries reopened in Gaza City this month, in what the Israeli army said was a sign of improving conditions.

The United Nations shared a video online showing bags of flour piled up in bakery warehouses and Palestinian children cheering for an aid truck.

However, Defense Department officials said Thursday that Army engineers had begun construction of a floating dock off the coast of Gaza. The sea route is expected to open in the coming weeks and could help aid workers deliver up to two million meals a day.

Additionally, the Jordanian military and government have recently increased the amount of aid arriving via land convoys, which travel from Jordan through the West Bank and through parts of Israel before reaching Gaza's southern border crossings. The Jordanian army carries out its own inspections. Government trucks are inspected by Israel.

However, the amount of aid to actually reach Gaza has been a matter of dispute, with Israel and the United Nations using different methods to track truck deliveries.

Ms. Sasson says the number of trucks entering Gaza daily has doubled in recent weeks, reaching a daily average of 400. But the United Nations has reported a significantly smaller increase. In the two weeks ending Thursday, the most recent day for which data was available, an average of 189 trucks were detected entering Gaza each day through the two main crossings in the south, although the number fluctuated significantly.

According to UN officials, trucks checked and counted by Israel often enter Gaza only half full, and it sometimes takes more than a day for the trucks to reach Gaza warehouses, affecting daily counts.

In addition to discrepancies in aid totals, tensions continue to simmer over Israel's claim that 19 Palestinian employees of UNWRA, the UN aid agency for the Palestinians, aided Hamas in the October 7 attack, in which 1,200 were killed Israelis. The United Nations Office of Investigation said on Friday it had closed the case against an employee, saying Israel had provided no evidence to support the charges against him.

Additionally, four other cases against UNRWA employees were suspended because the information provided by Israel was not sufficient for the UN Office of Internal Oversight to proceed with an investigation, the UN said.

According to UNRWA, suspended cases could be reopened if further evidence is presented. More than a dozen staff members remain under investigation.

Israeli Foreign Ministry did not respond to a request for comment on the matter.

Allegations that UN workers were involved in the Hamas-led assault have prompted a dozen countries to suspend billions in funding to the agency, which has been a vital lifeline for aid, water and shelter for many in Gaza.

Germany, the agency's second-largest donor after the United States, has since said it will resume funding for UNRWA, but American officials have not said whether they will follow suit.

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