Humanitarian Aid Trucks Enter Gaza – Second Convey Crosses On Sunday
Aid trucks stuck outside Gaza.

UPDATED ( 22:30 CEST 22.10.2023) The first convoy of 20 trucks carrying humanitarian aid to besieged Palestinians, including four trucks of WHO emergency medical supplies, entered southern Gaza via Egypt’s Rafah crossing Saturday. 

Another aid convoy of 14 trucks, including food water and medical supplies, entered Gaza on Sunday, UN officials  confirmed. They expressed hopes the humanitarian corridor could remain open, even as questions remained over its continuation amidst the Israeli threat of a ground invasion of Gaza along with an expanding arc of regional hostilities, including on the Israeli-Lebanese border.

At the same time, Friday evening’s release of two American-Israeli hostages, including a mother and her daughter, held by Hamas raised hopes that behind-the-scenes negotiations could aid in further humanitarian efforts.

United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that the UN was “actively engaging with all the parties in order to clarify [the aid] restrictions so we can have these trucks moving towards where they’re needed”.

Addressing the media in front of Egypt’s Rafah border crossing to Gaza on Friday afternoon, Guterres called for the speedy movement of the aid trucks.

 “We are witnessing a paradox. Behind these walls, we have two million people that are suffering enormously: that have no water, no food, no medicine, no fuel,” said Guterres. 

“On this side [of the border] we have so many trucks loaded with water, with fuel, with medicines, with the food. 

“These trucks are not just trucks. They are a lifeline. They are the difference between life and death for so many people in Gaza and to see them stuck here makes me be very clear. What we need is to make the move; to make them move to the other side of this wall, to make the move as quickly as possible, and as many as possible.”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addresses the media outside the Rafah border crossing in Egypt.

Intense negotiations

On Friday, Tamara Alrifai, Director of External Relations for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) said that she did not know “what is stopping the trucks but what we know is… everyone is calling for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire and an unimpeded, continuous and safe humanitarian access for humanitarian convoys”.

She added that there were “intense negotiations” about the aid trucks. 

“What is needed is a continuous flow of aid. This is not about a one-off sending 20 trucks and then nothing. This is really a call for continuous and safe humanitarian access with security conditions that allow my colleagues in Gaza to do what they need to do, which is check in on the internally displaced people (IDPs), run the health centres and distribute water and food.”

Earlier in the day, construction teams were seen working feverishly to repair the Rafah border entrance. which had been bombed in Israeli airstrikes earlier in the week, to enable the trucks could enter Gaza.

During a World Health Organization (WHO) briefing on Thursday, Dr Mike Ryan, head of health emergencies, decried the Israeli decision to only allow 20 trucks into the territory – and not to allow fuel urgently needed to power hospital generators and water desalination plants.

An AFP journalist reported that six fuel trucks, apparently destined to power hospital generators, had indeed entered Gaza as part of Sunday’s medical aid convoy. That was denied by Israel, which has said it believes fuel designated for humanitarian use has been filtered off to continue fueling the war.

“We have very, very detailed lists of the medical equipment and supplies that we’re sending, and they’re extremely well documented,” added Ryan at Thursday’s briefing, adding that these included amputation kits, intubation kits, pneumothorax kits to treat punctured lungs, and “many wound dressings, infusions, disinfectants, anaesthetics and painkillers”. 

However, Ryan added that the routes of the aid trucks had to be “de-conflicting” to ensure that “the trucks are not attacked or disrupted in any way, and that the goods can be offloaded safely”.

“Bringing supplies through a border crossing and for humanitarian assistance requires security planning, logistics planning. It is best done with people on the ground and is best done with independent monitoring of the delivery, and we do that in countries all over the world and in very difficult humanitarian situations and in zones of actual conflict,” added Ryan.

Guaranteed ‘deconfliction’

Ryan stressed that the combatants carrying out the hostilities had to guarantee “deconfliction”.

The fact that Israel had only allowed 20 trucks was a “drop in the ocean of need right now in Gaza”, Ryan stressed.

He asked how the WHO was supposed to choose whether to prioritise water, food or essential medicines.

“You get to send 20 trucks into a situation where two and a half million people are thirsty, without food, without water, without medicine,” said Ryan. 

“It shouldn’t be 20 trucks, it should be 2000 trucks. And we shouldn’t have to be making these choices.”

Meanwhile, Israel has continued its airstrikes of Gaza and is currently massing troops on Gaza’s border in preparation for a ground offensive, while Hamas continued missile fire on southern and central Israel.

In a briefing to parliament on Friday, Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said that the final phase of the current miliary offensive would be the “removal of Israel’s responsibility for life” in the Gaza Strip.

On Friday, the Palestinian Red Crescent Society said Israel ordered the evacuation of Gaza’s Al Quds Hospital, which is treating some 400 patients and is providing sanctuary to an estimated 12,000 displaced people.  But Israel later denied that there had been an order to evacuate the hospital – although the army has called for all civilians and hospital activities in northern Gaza to move south.  AFP, which had reported on the evacuation call later withdrew its story.

Elaine Ruth Fletcher contributed to reporting on this story.

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