Sunday, 23 June

Israel says it will open new aid routes into Gaza

World News
Children in Gaza wait with empty pots at a food distribution point

Israel says it has approved the opening of two humanitarian routes into Gaza, to allow more aid into the territory.

The Erez Gate in northern Gaza will be temporarily re-opened for the first time since the start of the war and Ashdod Port will also be opened for humanitarian deliveries.

More aid from Jordan will be allowed to enter via the Kerem Shalom Crossing.

It comes hours after Joe Biden spoke with Israel's PM for the first time since seven aid workers were killed.

According to a readout of a phone call between the US president and Benjamin Netanyahu, Mr Biden warned that Israel must take steps to prevent civilian harm and humanitarian suffering if it wanted to maintain US support.

 

It is understood that the re-opening of the corridors was specifically requested by Mr Biden in the phone call.

Mr Biden essentially gave the Israeli government an ultimatum - take concrete steps to prevent civilian harm and ensure safety for aid workers or US policy in respect of Gaza would change.

This was a significant shift in US policy - the first time that Washington has attempted to leverage American aid in order to influence the conduct of the war in Gaza.

Seven people working for the food aid charity World Central Kitchen (WCK) were killed in an Israeli strike in Gaza on Monday.

The WCK convoy they were travelling in was hit by an Israeli air strike as it travelled south along the Israeli-designated coastal aid route, just after they had unloaded more than 100 tonnes of food from a barge at a warehouse in Deir al-Balah.

 

The vehicles were around 2.5km (1.5 miles) apart and all three were hit during the attack.

Israel's military apologised and called the attack a tragic mistake. It has promised a full investigation.

The US National Security Council said it welcomed the steps announced by Israel, which it said "must now be fully and rapidly implemented".

US policy, it added, would be determined by the steps Israel took to protect "innocent civilians and the safety of aid workers".

On Thursday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said there would be a change of US policy if it did not see changes from Israel.

 

The move to open Israel's northern border crossing with Gaza in Erez is particularly significant, after Israel's Foreign Minister Eli Cohen told Israeli media in November that there would be "no more contact between Israel and Gaza".

In another development, former US president Donald Trump said Israel should get its war in Gaza "over with" in order to achieve peace and "stop killing people".

Mr Trump - a staunch ally of Israel - made the comments in a radio interview. He said that Israel was "absolutely losing the PR war" and should stop broadcasting video footage of its air strikes in Gaza. But he added that Israel had to finish what it had started.

 

Mr Trump, who is expected to be the Republican party's candidate in November's presidential election, has previously criticised Joe Biden for being insufficiently supportive of Israel.

Mr Netanyahu has faced rising international and domestic anger at Israel's conduct in Gaza.

A long line of lorries filled with aid has been backing up on the Egyptian side of the border with Rafah for months as they can only enter Gaza after a complex and bureaucratic series of Israeli checks.

The absence of adequate humanitarian supplies has forced Jordan, the US and UK to drop aid from the air - the least effective way to deliver humanitarian supplies.

Air drops have also proved dangerous - Palestinians have been crushed when parachutes fail and have drowned as they try to swim to pallets that have landed in the sea.

A recent UN-backed report offered evidence that the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza was turning into a man-made famine.

And the UN's most senior human rights official, Volker Türk, recently told the BBC that there was a "plausible" case that Israel was using starvation as a weapon of war in Gaza.

Israel denies impeding the entry of aid or its distribution inside Gaza, and blames UN agencies on the ground for failing to get the aid that is allowed in to the people who need it.

More than 196 aid workers have been killed in Gaza since October, according to the US-funded Aid Worker Security Database, which records major incidents of violence against aid personnel. Not all were killed while delivering aid.

On Thursday GPS was blocked across swathes of Israel in order to disrupt missiles and drones, as tensions rose with Iran.

Reservists have been called up to bolster air defence units and the Israel Defense Forces also announced it was halting all leave for soldiers serving with combat units.

Iran has vowed to respond after a strike it believes Israel carried out on its consulate building in Syria on Monday killed 13 people, including a senior general.

Much of the Gaza Strip has been devastated during the Israeli military operations that began after Hamas-led gunmen attacked southern Israel on 7 October, killing about 1,200 people and seizing 253 hostages.

More than 33,000 people have been killed in Gaza since then, the territory's Hamas-run health ministry says.

Source: BBC