/ 20 October 2023

The long wait for Gaza aid

Image source: Unsplash
Image source: Unsplash

The Squiz

The United Nations says Gaza is on the brink of a “major health and sanitation crisis” unless supplies of water, food and medicine start reaching people soon. US President Joe Biden left Israel yesterday having helped to secure an agreement with Israel and Egypt to allow an initial 20 trucks with humanitarian aid to enter Gaza – but the earliest those are expected to start rolling in is later on today. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is in Egypt – he said this morning that it’s “a moment of profound crisis … unlike any the region has seen in decades”, and when it comes to aid, “we need it at scale, and we need it to be sustained,” he said.

What’s the holdup?

Ah, where to start… The aid is meant to get in via the Rafah crossing on the Egyptian border with Gaza – but first, Egypt’s got to repair a road badly damaged by Israeli airstrikes. Another issue is around Israel’s demand that each truck gets thoroughly checked by the UN to ensure it’s only carrying food, water or medicine, and it’s asked for assurances that the supplies go to civilians, not Hamas. Egypt has its own concerns about opening the crossing beyond limited aid deliveries… President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi says if there is a mass exodus of Palestinians from Gaza, his country’s north will become “a base for operations against Israel, and in this case, Egypt will be labelled as a base for terrorists.” He also says he wants Gazans to stay put because arguing for a Palestinian state would be hard if its people weren’t there.

So that leaves things… where?

It leaves tens of thousands of people in Gaza who have moved close to the crossing waiting for that aid to get through. As we mentioned, that can’t come soon enough with some dire reports on the conditions there… On the Egypt side – as well as the 20 trucks that have been given the green light to go in – there are hundreds more waiting to be given permission… Humanitarians say the initial shipment is a “drop in the ocean” of the assistance that is needed. British PM Rishi Sunak is the latest world leader to travel to the Middle East, and he’s also pleading for foreign nationals to be allowed out of Gaza – and more aid to be let in. In a press conference with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu overnight, Sunak said “we stand with you in solidarity … and we also want you to win.” Also for your radar – after his lightning trip to Israel, Biden’s set to address to the nation this morning, where he’s expected to make the case for Congress to back a $100 billion package for Israel and Ukraine.

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