April 23, 2024


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Middle East Crisis: The disastrous convoy was part of a new Israeli effort to deliver more aid to Gaza

Middle East Crisis: The disastrous convoy was part of a new Israeli effort to deliver more aid to Gaza

The aid convoy that turned into a disaster on Thursday, ending with the deaths of dozens of Palestinians, was part of a new Israeli operation to deliver much-needed food to Gazans, working directly with local businessmen, according to an Israeli official and Palestinian and Western businessmen. Diplomats.

In a rare move, Israel co-organized at least four aid convoys to northern Gaza last week after international relief organizations suspended operations in the area, citing Israel's refusal to give the green light for aid trucks and growing lawlessness. But on Thursday, those efforts backfired for Israeli planners.

Two Western diplomats, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter, said that Israeli relief efforts are trying to fill the void left by the United Nations and other relief agencies. The Israeli army and the Israeli Prime Minister's Office declined to comment.

the The United Nations warned More than 570,000 Gazans – especially in northern Gaza – face “catastrophic levels of deprivation and starvation” after nearly five months of war and an almost complete Israeli blockade of the Strip following the October 7 Hamas-led attacks.

Some residents resorted to raiding the warehouses of abandoned homes, while others ground animal feed to obtain flour. UN aid convoys carrying essential goods to northern Gaza have been looted, either by civilians who fear starvation or by organized gangs.

UN officials had appealed to Israel to allow them to “flood the market” with food or at least open a new border crossing into northern Gaza. Instead, diplomats said, Israeli officials decided to move to fill the gap themselves.

Israeli military officials contacted several Gaza businessmen and asked them to help organize at least four private aid convoys to the north, according to two Palestinian businessmen involved in the operation, Izzat Akl and Jawdat Khudari.

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Mr. Akl said in an interview with the New York Times that he helped provide some of the trucks participating in Thursday's ill-fated convoy. He said that an Israeli military officer called him about 10 days ago and asked him to organize aid trucks to northern Gaza carrying as much food and drink as possible.

Like Mr. Akl, Mr. Al-Khodary said he had organized some of the trucks carrying aid as part of a relief initiative that included Israel. “My family, friends and neighbors are dying of hunger,” Mr. Al-Khudari said, adding, “I am a practical man.”

Israeli military spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said Thursday that the special convoy was part of several days of humanitarian operations to distribute food supplies in Gaza overseen by Israeli forces.

“Over the past four days, convoys like the one we sent this morning — this morning 38 truckloads — have passed into northern Gaza to distribute food supplies that are international donations but on private vehicles,” he told Britain’s Channel 4 on Thursday.

It is not clear who purchased the aid carried on the trucks and whether other parties were involved in this part of the operation.

On Thursday, more than 100 Palestinians were killed and more than 700 others injured as they gathered in the pre-dawn darkness around trucks loaded with food and other supplies, according to Gaza health officials.

Eyewitnesses described widespread shooting by Israeli forces amid widespread panic, and doctors in Gaza hospitals said that most of the dead and wounded were caused by the gunfire. Witnesses said that others were crushed under trucks while trying to escape. Gaza health officials described it as a “massacre.”

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The Israeli army said that its forces opened fire after members of the crowd approached them “in a way that put them in danger.” Most of the deaths were attributed to a stampede as hungry Palestinians sought to seize the shipment.

Eyewitnesses said that thousands of Gazans camped out overnight in anticipation of the convoy's arrival on Thursday, in a desperate attempt to obtain some of the food supplies that were rumored to be on the way.

Since the beginning of the war, Israel has restricted the entry of humanitarian aid. The bombing campaign and ground invasion eliminated Hamas's control over northern Gaza, leaving a massive security vacuum and a humanitarian catastrophe.

Israeli leaders have repeatedly said that while they want to maintain “security control” in Gaza, they want others to handle civilian matters such as health and education. But it is unclear what options they have, and former Israeli officials have warned that the Israeli government has not yet seriously planned for who will take care of civilians in the devastated Gaza Strip after the war.

The humanitarian crisis worsened last week after the World Food Program joined UNRWA, the UN agency serving Palestinians in Gaza, in halting aid shipments to the north. The World Food Programme, also a United Nations body, pointed to the chaos that prevailed in the region.

In private conversations, Israeli officials said they had begun the aid operation in the north, in coordination with private businessmen in Gaza, in light of the United Nations decision to stop sending convoys there, according to Western diplomats.

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An Israeli security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter, confirmed that Israel coordinated the convoys with private businessmen in Gaza.

Mr. Akl said that starting this week, the first three convoys in the operation – each comprising 15 to 25 trucks – headed to northern Gaza without significant problems. He added that some of these trucks were aid trucks sent by him, while others were organized by other contractors.

Mr. Akl said that the convoy that ended in bloodshed left the Kerem Shalom crossing between Israel and Gaza before heading to northern Gaza, with the aim of reaching areas where aid has not reached for weeks. He added that in an attempt to ensure the safety of the trucks, they entered northern Gaza at around 4:45 am

By then, crowds of desperate Gazans had gathered, waiting in the dark.

“Thousands of people came to the coastal road trying to take the incoming supplies,” Mr Akl said. “They knew supplies were coming, so they stayed there and waited until dawn.”

Aqel said frenzied Gazans roamed around the trucks trying to seize supplies, leading to stampedes, gunfire and chaos.

He added: “If they had waited, we would have sent them more aid.” “But they were hungry.”