Anarchy hampers aid efforts in Gaza, despite daily lull in fighting

The extreme anarchy that has gripped the Gaza Strip is making it too dangerous and difficult to distribute desperately needed aid in the south, aid groups and others say, despite a daily lull in fighting that Israel is seeing along a key road in that area .

Days after the pause began, more than 1,000 trucks loaded with supplies remained stranded in Gaza near the Kerem Shalom border crossing with Israel, with thousands of tons of food, medicine and other goods just miles away from Palestinians who had need, aid groups and Israeli officials say. .

The threat of looting and attacks by armed gangs have forced humanitarian groups to stop providing assistance in southern Gaza. Trucks traveling on supply routes were riddled with bullet holes. Businessmen sending commercial goods to the territory and aid agencies have decided they cannot risk the lives of their employees during the journey.

As a result, the Israeli army's decision to suspend fighting for hours each day along the aid route has so far produced little humanitarian benefit.

The grim situation is part of the domino effect of Israel's campaign in Gaza, which toppled much of the Hamas government without any civil administration to take its place.

In much of Gaza there are no police officers to prevent chaos, few municipal workers to clear piles of rubble and rubbish, and only the bare minimum of public services. Organized crime groups have filled the void, their affiliations – whether to Gaza clans or armed groups like Hamas – still unclear.

Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, an Israeli military spokesman, said Wednesday that Israeli leaders must propose an alternative to Hamas in Gaza distributing food and running public services, otherwise they risk seeing the group that led the Oct. 7 assault on Israel return to his homeland. power.

“The idea that it is possible to destroy Hamas, to make Hamas disappear – this is throwing sand in the eyes of the public,” Admiral Hagari said in a television interview. “If we don't bring something else to Gaza, eventually, we will get Hamas.”

His remarks came amid growing and unusually public friction between the Israeli military and the country's political leadership. More than eight months into the war, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has yet to articulate a clear plan to stabilize Gaza or administer it after the war, although he has ruled out allowing the internationally-backed Palestinian Authority to take over. command, and the Israeli settlements in the area.

Meanwhile, Palestinians in Gaza endure widespread chaos and deprivation. Relief groups say too little aid is arriving in the area and often fails to reach the people who need it. Since Israel's military offensive in the southern city of Rafah closed another crossing last month, Kerem Shalom has become the only conduit for aid into southern Gaza.

Manhal Shaibar, who supervises a Palestinian trucking company working at the Kerem Shalom crossing, said some goods were deteriorating due to the heat on the Gaza side. Some commercial trucks managed to get out under heavy guard, despite assaults by armed Gazans, he said, but the aid remained blocked.

“People in Gaza can't find food,” Shaibar said. “But the goods are scattered here, along the crossing.”

“It's a disaster,” he said.

Farhan Haq, a United Nations spokesman, told reporters Tuesday that Israel's announcement of a pause “has not yet translated into additional aid reaching people in need.”

A person involved in distributing the aid said that armed criminal gangs operate with almost complete freedom in the border area between Israel and Gaza, where trucks must pass, attacking them daily. The person described the attacks as coordinated and organized, not as spontaneous looting by desperate Gaza civilians who harassed humanitarian convoys in the early months of the war.

Armed assailants shoot at the trucks, force them to stop and sometimes beat the drivers before stripping the trucks of their contents, the person said.

And there is no one to turn to for help: The Hamas-run police force that helped ensure the passage of aid at the start of the war disbanded months ago after the Israeli army killed several officers. (The person spoke on condition of anonymity because she was bound by confidentiality agreements.)

The “lack of police or rule of law in the area” made the streets surrounding the intersection highly dangerous, Haq said.

The number of international aid trucks reaching Palestinians in southern Gaza has plummeted since Israel's Rafah offensive began on May 7. Only a small amount of aid has arrived in Kerem Shalom, aid officials say, including what a Western aid official said were 30 trucks sent across Jordan on Monday.

Another border crossing, in Rafah on the Egypt-Gaza border, has remained closed since early May, although Egyptian authorities have allowed some trucks to pass through it en route to Kerem Shalom. Egypt and Israel have been arguing for weeks over how and when to reopen the Rafah crossing.

In an effort to make up the shortfall, Israeli authorities have begun allowing more commercial goods into Gaza from Israel and the occupied West Bank. Unlike UN convoys, these trucks tend to travel with armed protection, allowing them to cross dangerous terrain.

According to a U.S. official working on the aid, Israel had suspended commercial deliveries for about two weeks in an effort to allow aid trucks to pass through. But on Sunday, with no aid traveling along that route because of insecurity, Israel resumed sending commercial trucks, 20 of which are headed to Gaza, the official said. The U.S. official was not authorized to speak publicly.

Saed Abu al-Ouf, a Gaza businessman who has sent about three truckloads of rice to the enclave since mid-May, said he had suspended the shipments because of the armed gangs. In the past, he said, he had paid thousands of dollars in security money to a group of Gazans to secure his trucks.

But now it is simply too dangerous on the Gaza side of the Kerem Shalom crossing, he said. He keeps his last truck full of goods on the Israeli side, hoping that some kind of order will be restored.

“There is no security and no government ruling in Gaza,” Abu al-Ouf said in a telephone interview from Cairo. “Armed people can take your assets.”

“It is much more dangerous than before and we would need a powerful police apparatus to protect us. We are traders, we cannot play the role of police at the same time,” she said.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *