Israel announces opening of aid routes into Gaza

Israel has come under mounting international pressure over the toll inflicted by its six-month war on Hamas

By AFP

  • Follow us on
  • google-news
  • whatsapp
  • telegram

 

A view of Ashdod port after the Israeli cabinet approved the temporary use of the port for aid deliveries into Gaza, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Ashdod, Israel, April 5, 2024. Reuters
A view of Ashdod port after the Israeli cabinet approved the temporary use of the port for aid deliveries into Gaza, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Ashdod, Israel, April 5, 2024. Reuters

Published: Fri 5 Apr 2024, 12:14 PM

Israel announced on Friday that it would allow "temporary" aid deliveries into famine-threatened northern Gaza, hours after the United States warned of a sharp shift in its policy over the Gaza war.

In a tense, 30-minute phone call on Thursday, US President Joe Biden told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that US policy on Israel was dependent on the protection of civilians and aid workers in Gaza, the first hint of possible conditions to Washington's military support.


Just hours later, in the middle of the night in Jerusalem, Israel announced it would open more aid routes into blockaded Gaza.

Stay up to date with the latest news. Follow KT on WhatsApp Channels.


Israel's war cabinet authorised "temporary" aid deliveries via the Ashdod Port and the Erez land crossing, as well as increased deliveries from neighbouring Jordan at the Kerem Shalom crossing, Netanyahu's office said.

The White House quickly welcomed the moves — calling them "at the president's request" — and saying they "must now be fully and rapidly implemented".

Israel has come under mounting international pressure over the toll inflicted by its six-month war on Hamas, and drawn increasingly tough rebuke from main backer Washington.

Since the October 7 attacks that launched the war, Israel's retaliatory campaign has killed at least 33,037 people and sparked warnings about catastrophic hunger.

Palestinians in northern Gaza have had to survive on an average of just 245 calories per day — less than a can of beans — since January, according to Oxfam.

Charities have repeatedly accused Israel of throttling aid and targeting convoys, with the dangerous work of trying to stem a famine underscored this week by an Israeli strike that killed seven humanitarian workers distributing food in Gaza.

"The strikes on humanitarian workers and the overall humanitarian situation are unacceptable," Biden told Netanyahu, according to a White House readout of their call.

Biden also "made clear that US policy with respect to Gaza will be determined by our assessment of Israel's immediate action" to improve the humanitarian situation.

Longtime Israel supporter Biden is facing growing pressure in an election year over his response to the Gaza war — with allies pressing him to make the billions of dollars in military aid Washington sends dependent on Netanyahu listening to calls for restraint.

US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby acknowledged Biden's "growing frustration" with Netanyahu, but reiterated that US support for Israel's security was "ironclad".

Netanyahu has vowed to destroy Hamas, including in Gaza's southern city of Rafah, while pledging to move more than one million civilians in the city out of harm's way first.

Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin said the deadly strike on the World Central Kitchen staff had "reinforced the expressed concern over a potential Israeli military operation in Rafah, specifically focusing on the need to ensure the evacuation of Palestinian civilians and the flow of humanitarian aid".

In a call to his Israeli counterpart Yoav Gallant, Austin also "discussed the threat posed by Iran and its proxy activities", according to the Israeli army.

Israel was blamed for an air strike on Monday on the Iranian consulate in Damascus that killed seven Revolutionary Guards, two of them generals.

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei vowed in a social media message posted in Hebrew that "with God's help we will make the Zionists repent of their crime of aggression against the Iranian consulate in Damascus".

The Israeli military said that after a "situational assessment, it was decided to increase manpower and draft reserve soldiers".

It also said "leave will be temporarily paused for all combat units".

ALSO READ:

Netanyahu faces intense domestic pressure from the families of the Israeli hostages still held in Gaza, and from a resurgent anti-government protest movement.

War cabinet member Benny Gantz, a centrist political rival of Netanyahu, has demanded that a snap election be held in September, a call rejected by the premier's right-wing Likud party.

The bloodiest ever Gaza war began with Hamas's Hamas attack on October 7 that resulted in the deaths of 1,170 Israelis and foreigners, most of them civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.

Palestinian militants also took more than 250 hostages on October 7, and 130 remain in Gaza, including 34 who the army says are dead.

Amid the heightened tensions, Israeli security services said they had foiled a plot to kill the far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, who heads the Jewish Power party, and to strike other targets.

In Gaza, relentless Israeli bombardment has reduced much of the territory to rubble, collapsed the hospital system and forced 2.4 million Palestinians to endure dire shortages of food, water, fuel and other basic supplies.

In Gaza City, Palestinians slept overnight near an aid delivery spot, hoping to receive a bag of flour.

"We sleep on the streets, in the cold, on the sand, enduring hardship to secure food for our families, especially our young children," one man told AFP. "I don't know what else to do or how our lives have come to this."

Medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has accused Israel of systematically destroying Gaza's healthcare system, describing scenes of carnage beyond the abilities of any hospital.

The medical charity said children were turning up at hospitals with gunshot wounds from drones, while many patients were crushed under rubble then suffering severe burns.

"No healthcare system in the world can cope with the volume and type of injuries, and the medical conditions, that we're seeing on a daily basis," said Amber Alayyan, MSF deputy programme manager for the Middle East.


More news from World