UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres visited the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip to bring aid to the besieged Palestinian enclave. However, it remains unclear when deliveries of aid stored in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula might begin.
“We are actively working with all parties, with Egypt, Israel, the United States … to get these trucks moving as quickly as possible,” Guterres told reporters on Friday.
The US said the details of an agreement to deliver aid across the border were still being worked out.
Washington had previously said an agreement had been reached for the passage of the first 20 trucks. But U.N. officials say aid deliveries are needed on a significant scale and under sustained conditions.
Most of the 2.3 million people in the Gaza Strip have long been dependent on humanitarian aid. The coastal enclave has been under a blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt since Hamas came to power in 2007.
Before the current conflict between Israel and Hamas, the armed group that rules Gaza, around 450 aid trucks arrived in the enclave every day. However, since Hamas’ attacks on Israel on October 7, it has been under Israeli bombardment, cut off from electricity, water and food and the borders have been sealed.
“We are in intensive and advanced negotiations with all relevant parties to ensure that an aid operation in Gaza begins as quickly as possible and under the right conditions,” said Jens Laerke, spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). ). told reporters in Geneva.
The United Nations was encouraged by reports that the first delivery should begin “the next day or so,” he added.
life and death
Guterres said it was “absolutely necessary to get these trucks moving as quickly as possible and as many as necessary,” adding that “this has to be a sustained effort.”
“We are not expecting a single convoy to come, but we are looking for convoys to be approved in a meaningful number to have enough trucks to support the people of Gaza,” the UN chief said.
“These are not just trucks,” he explained, “but a lifeline. They are the difference between life and death.”
The Israeli siege and bombardment of the Gaza Strip, launched in retaliation for a deadly Hamas incursion into Israel, has sparked a humanitarian crisis in the enclave.
Laerke said Gaza urgently needs water, food, fuel and medical supplies.
Rafah is the only border crossing into Gaza for goods and people that does not border Israel.
Efforts to bring aid to the enclave have been complicated by the need to agree on a mechanism to verify aid and to evacuate foreign passport holders from Gaza.
Roads leading into Gaza are being repaired after being bombarded over the past two weeks.
Al Jazeera’s Hashem Zaqout, who managed to gain rare access to the Rafah border crossing on Friday, said: “Israeli raids have left large gaps on the main road used by transporters delivering aid to the Gaza Strip, causing the “This makes transport by buses impossible or relief trucks to use it, but Egyptian teams are currently busy asphalting them so it is functional again.”
A U.N. official said more than 200 trucks carrying aid were ready to head from Sinai to Gaza.
During previous conflicts, Gaza received aid during humanitarian breaks through the Israeli-controlled Karem Abu Salem border crossing, which Israelis call Kerem Shalom.
But Israel has said it will not allow aid shipments from its territory until Hamas releases prisoners it has held since its Oct. 7 attack.
Tel Aviv has said that aid can travel through Egypt as long as it does not end up in the hands of Hamas.
Egypt has said it will not accept mass relocation of Gazans to Sinai. This reflects Arab fears that Palestinians could again flee or be expelled from their homes en masse, as was the case during the Nakba, or “catastrophe,” that accompanied the creation of Israel in 1948.
Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said on Friday that one goal in the war on Gaza was to end “Israeli responsibility” for the enclave.
Gallant made the comments during a briefing before Parliament’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, his office said.
“Gallant detailed the goals of the campaign, including the elimination of Hamas and the destruction of both its military and governmental capabilities, the complete removal of Israeli responsibility from the Gaza Strip, and the creation of a new security reality in the region,” the statement said .
Source : www.aljazeera.com