Israel Agrees to Allow Humanitarian Aid Into Gaza Following US President Joe Biden’s Visit 
Lifesaving WHO humanitarian aid to Gaza arrives in Egypt from Abu Dhabi. It is now poised at the Rafiah crossing into Gaza.

Israel on Wednesday confirmed that it would agree to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza via its Rafiah crossing from Egypt, where truckloads of  food, water and medicines have already been positioned in the hopes that a humanitarian corridor could soon be opened to reach some 2.3 million Gazans in a deepening humanitarian crisis.  

The Israeli agreement came after days of high stakes diplomacy involving Israel, Egypt and the United States, and was announced by US President Joe Biden during his whirlwind visit to the country – an unprecedented gesture by an American president in wartime. 

“In light of President Biden’s request, Israel will not prevent humanitarian assistance from Egypt as long as it is only food, water and medicine for the civilian population locating in the southern Gaza Strip, or which is evacuating to there, and as long as these supplies do not reach Hamas,” said the Israeli statement confirming the arrangements, and released shortly after Biden’s departure.

“Israel will not allow any humanitarian aid from its territory to the Gaza Strip as long as our hostages are not returned,” the statement  added. 

Over 70 cubic tons of medicines and health equipment have been waiting at Rafiah for over 72 hours, WHO said in a press conference on Tuesday, as the US and neighboring Arab states sought to broker a deal amidst heavy Israeli bombardment of Gaza and constant Hamas  missile fire into Israel.

Gaza man walks across a pile of rubble in a week that has seen the heaviest bombing attacks of the area ever by Israel.

Still held by Hamas forces 

Some 200 Israelis, as well as an uncounted number of foreign students and workers are meanwhile still being held by Hamas forces in Gaza – after they were taken captive in raids on 22 Israeli communities near the Gaza border on 7 October.  More than 1300 other Israelis were killed in the surprise Hamas attack, in which gunmen broke through a separation fence and went door to door, shooting and burning victims in their homes and on the streets in the early morning hours of a holiday weekend. 

While Israel has vowed to remove Hamas from power altogether now in the wake of the attacks, pressure has also been mounting on Israel’s government to advance moves that could gain the release of the hostages, which include mothers and young children, older people, many of whom are also dual nationals from some 22 countries, ranging from Nepal to Canada.  On Wednesday, Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said that he had asked Biden to intervene so as to arrange Red Cross visits to the captives.

Hamas militants arrive at Kibbutz Beeri. at 7 a.m. Saturday 7 October. A total of 100 people, one in 10 members of the kibbutz, were short or burned by the gunmen.

For 11 days now, Israel has been pounding Gaza constantly from the air, wreaking unprecedented damage on the enclave’s densely populated urban areas. The Palestinian Hamas authorities have reported some 2750 Palestinian casualties so far. 

Hamas has meanwhile continued firing thousands of missiles on wide swathes of southern and central Israel. Israel, which has anti-missile defenses and civilian shelters, has reported about another 100 casualties since the initial incursions by thousands of Hamas gunmen who broke through a fortified fence dividing Gaza from pre-1967 Israel on 7 October. 

A ground invasion on the horizon?

There were some flickering hopes Wednesday that the agreement over a humanitarian  corridor could create the foundation for a de-escalation of the crisis, advancing negotiations over the hostages and staving off an Israeli ground incursion into northern Gaza.  

Several days ago, Israel ordered the million or so Palestinians living in the northern part of the Gaza to relocate, as expectations rose of a Israeli military ground campaign to put an end to Hamas rule in Gaza – as Israel has now vowed.

The World Health Organization and other humanitarian organization have condemned the Israeli evacuation order, saying that forced relocation would be tantamount to a “dense sentence” for patients in 22 hospitals in the northern part of the enclave.  

“We have reiterated calls for Israel to reverse its evacuation orders for 1.1 million people in northern Gaza, including more than 2000 patients in 23,” said Dr Ahmed Al-Mandhari Director for WHO’s  Eastern Mediterranean Region, Tuesday morning. 

“We have highlighted both the impossibility of moving critical patients without risking their death and the already dire situation in southern Gaza’s hospitals, which are entirely unable to handle additional caseloads of patients.”

WHO Condemns Destruction of Al Ahli Hospital 

In a second late night press conference Tuesday, WHO officials condemned the attack on Al Ahli, which occurred just before 7 p.m. 

But WHO’s Director of Health Emergencies, Mike Ryan, refrained from assigning blame for the explosion, which killed some 500 people, saying only that attacks on a hospital are illegal in international law and “this violence on all sides has to stop.”  

The explosion, which Gaza’s Health Ministry blamed on an Israeli aerial bombing,, touched off spontaneous, angry protests in Beirut, Amman, and elsewhere in the Arab world, which continued Wednesday for a second night. 

Israeli officials  flatly denied that it had bombed the hospital, and shared TV footage filmed live at the time of the incident from both Al Jazeera and Israel’s Channel 12 station, suggesting that a missile shot from Gaza had misfired, with shrapnel falling on the hospital, triggering an explosion. 

The time-stamped  Al Jazeera footage captures the launch of a missile from arching in the darkened sky and then flaring as it suddenly descends – followed by a dome-like orange explosion seen on the ground at 18:59.  

Israel’s N12 TV channel also shared live footage of the same moments, showing a similar missle trajectory and explosion at 18:59, which it captured from a border watch post.   

The fact that no large crater was evident at the hospital site also tends to indicate that the explosion was not the result of a bombing, one international official involved in the Gaza relief effort told Health Policy Watch, on condition of confidentiality. 

On his visit to Israel, Biden said that US intelligence corroborated the Israeli reports that the blast had been caused by “the other team.”  

Image Credits: Care International , @uasupport999.jpg.

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