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Peace and Conflict

Israel-UK-US expand delivery of aid to Gaza | Update 17th May 2024

Israel-UK-US expand delivery of aid to Gaza via BICom

What’s happened: The UK has announced that its first maritime aid delivery for the Gaza Strip has set sail from Larnaca, Cyprus.

  • Comprising approximately 100 tones of shelter coverage kits for Gazan displaced persons, it will be delivered to the US-built temporary pier off the coast of Gaza City.
  • Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “The UK has been working around the clock with our allies and partners to ensure more aid gets into Gaza via all possible routes - land, air and sea. We are leading international efforts with the US and Cyprus to establish a maritime aid corridor. Today’s first shipment of British aid from Cyprus to the temporary pier off Gaza is an important moment in increasing this flow.”
  • The Royal Fleet Auxiliary’s vessel, Cardigan Bay, has supported the pier’s construction by housing hundreds of American soldiers and sailors who were involved in building it.
  • First proposed in March, the US Navy and Army have now finished building a temporary pier which will facilitate the maritime delivery of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip. Initially, it will have the capacity to deliver 90 truckloads of aid a day, rising to 150. Aid agencies will oversee local distribution, and the US government has confirmed that none of its troops will be present in the Gaza Strip.
  • The IDF confirmed its involvement in aiding in the pier’s construction, saying that “preparations were carried out over the last few weeks by the Engineering and Construction Department of the Ministry of Defense, the IDF, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories and in cooperation with the U.S. Military.”
  • The new maritime delivery corridor will complement overland aid delivery efforts which remain critical. Israel continues to facilitate these efforts and has opened additional inspection routes in the West Bank to increase the rate at which aid trucks can be searched before travelling to the Gaza Strip.
  • This week’s shipments contained tents for civilians temporarily evacuating from Rafah, 38 trucks of flour, and 76,000 litres of fuel.
  • On Thursday, according to the IDF, “365 humanitarian aid trucks entered the Gaza Strip through the Kerem Shalom Crossing operated by the Ministry of Defence’s Land Crossings Authority, as well as the Erez Crossing, following thorough security checks.”
  • Elsewhere, another overland crossing from Israel into the Gaza Strip has been opened at Zikim. It will primarily facilitate the entry of trucks carrying aid from Ashdod Port once they have undergone security checks on the Israeli side of the border.
  • Further, according to the IDF, the Tarqumiyah and Beitunia crossings in The West Bank were opened "for the first time since the beginning of the war in order to expand the inspection routes of humanitarian aid trucks going to the Gaza Strip, as part of efforts to increase the rate of inspection of aid.”
  • Far-right Israeli activists are continuing their efforts to disrupt the overland passage of aid through Israel into the Gaza Strip, especially in the West Bank. On Wednesday, it was reported that a commercial truck was mistakenly identified as being part of an aid convoy and attacked by extremist activists who were arrested at the scene. These efforts are being coordinated by a group called “Tzav 9”, and non-violent protestors continue to demonstrate against the delivery of aid to the Gaza Strip as long as Hamas still holds Israeli hostages.

Context: Israel is now fully engaged in facilitating aid to the civilian population, whilst determined in its continued fight against Hamas.

  • At the first stage of the operation in Rafah, Israel sent messages encouraging the civilian population to move through the humanitarian corridor into safe zones.
  • Prior to the operation, an estimated 1.4 million Palestinians were sheltering in Rafah, many of whom had fled fighting in the north and centre of the Gaza Strip. The IDF estimates that 700,000 Gazans have so far left through corridors.
  • The UK sees itself as having played a critical role in facilitating the maritime corridor between Cyprus and the Gaza Strip, and will continue doing so as long it operates. It will also continue its efforts to “unlock more [land] routes to get vital aid in”.
  • Israel has evacuated the eastern third of Rafah, and as these efforts expand to the rest of the city it is almost certain hundreds of thousands of its residents will travel north to tent cities which have been erected in Khan Yunis and Al Mawasi.
  • Prior to the operation, Israel oversaw the construction of tens of thousands of temporary shelters. This latest UK shipment supports those efforts.
  • While Israel continues to facilitate the entry of aid into the Gaza Strip, internal distribution challenges remain the primary obstacle to ensuring it reaches those in need.
  • The Israeli government also claims that Hamas are disrupting the effective distribution of aid, either siphoning supplies off for themselves or in one instance detaining and holding Jordanian trucks. In the absence of non-Hamas affiliated Palestinian partners, aid distribution challenges are likely to continue.
  • Although aid is meant to be distributed for free, according to veteran commentator Ehud Yaari, talking on Channel 12 News, Hamas has earned half a billion dollars from exploiting the aid since the beginning of the conflict.
  • The resumption of commercial haulage to Gaza is significant. Limited commercial trucks, primarily Gazan businessmen, have only been recently reintroduced, stopped since October 7th. As of Wednesday, 52 had travelled into the Gaza Strip.

Looking ahead: The UK Government said its aid would be distributed in Gaza “as soon as feasible.”

  • Sunak said of aid that “we know that more is required, particularly via land, which is why alongside intensive work to get hostages out of Gaza we will continue efforts to unlock more routes to get vital aid in – helping people in desperate need.”
  • On an aerial tour of Gaza and in meetings with divisions active in Rafah yesterday, Prime Minister Netanyahu affirmed Israel’s commitment to continuing to operate in the city. “The battle in Rafah is critical,” he said. “It is not only the remaining battalions there but their escape and supply pipelines.”

via BICom