Tuesday, June 25, 2024
World News

Aid groups warn they face looting, danger in Gaza after raid

Humanitarian groups said they were struggling to deliver aid in Gaza amid looting of their vehicles and the disruption caused by Israeli military operations in the Strip, including a surprise raid in the Nuseirat refugee camp Saturday that led to the rescue of four hostages but which Palestinians said caused hundreds of deaths.

The World Food Program said Sunday that it had paused operations on a U.S.-backed pier in Gaza after the raid in Nuseirat in Central Gaza and would not resume until after the United Nations conducted a security assessment. “We are reassessing the safety aspects of where we should be and what this means for us,” WFP head Cindy McCain said in an interview with The Washington Post. “It made things a lot more dangerous. … The crowd is already hungry. They’re desperate. And then to have something like this occur?”

McCain said that WFP operations had already been made “very hard” in Rafah, where Israeli military operations over recent weeks had led to the “intermittent closing” of routes, which led to delays that enabled looting by Palestinians. “[WFP trucks] are looted because it’s so difficult to get along,” McCain said.

Getting aid into Gaza “remains very difficult,” said Scott Anderson, deputy director of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) that aids Palestinians. Once inside the territory, distribution is also chaotic, he told The Post. Thefts often take place during the trip from the Kerem Shalom crossing to the warehouses, he said.

While aid groups are generally able to reach central Gaza, where much of the population displaced from Rafah is now living, the amount of people makes transport difficult. “Everybody is so densely packed that it’s hard to move,” he said.

UNRWA is “focused on trying to get aid in and taking care of people in our shelters,” which currently house roughly half the displaced population, he said. There is a push also to start some schooling for children in shelters, even if it is limited to an hour per day — “just something to give the kids a sense of routine and get their minds engaged again.

The concerns about aid came as Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Israel on Monday, where he will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.

On Tuesday, Blinken is also expected to meet with Benny Gantz, who resigned from the Israeli war cabinet Sunday night in the latest blow to the government’s stability, according to a U.S. official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss plans.

Blinken spoke with Egyptian President Abdel Fatah El-Sisi about a U.S.-backed proposal for a cease-fire that would “alleviate the suffering of Palestinians in Gaza and surge humanitarian assistance,” according to a statement from State Department spokesman Matthew Miller.

After Israel, Blinken expected to continue on to visit Jordan and Qatar, where he will have to address the ire of the Arab nations regarding the Israeli operation on Saturday during which Israeli troops rescued four hostages in Gaza and killed nearly 300 Palestinians.

The visit to Israel comes amid upheaval within the government as Gantz’s departure Sunday from the war cabinet threatens Netanyahu’s hold on power and adds to domestic political pressure piling on him to accept a cease-fire proposal that seeks to bring back hostages still held in the Gaza Strip. There are 120 hostages still inside the enclave, though at least a third are believed to be dead, according to the Israeli military.

In Israel, thousands of protesters have been taking to the streets for weeks, led by hostages’ families and supporters who fear time is running out for their loved ones remaining in Gaza. More demonstrations are expected to be held during Blinken’s visit to Tel Aviv. One protest group called on Blinken and President Biden to “seal the deal,” saying Netanyahu is undermining the deal that aims to save the remaining hostages.

In a broadcast Sunday night, Gantz lambasted Netanyahu for his “empty promises” of “total victory,” instead of focusing on a hostage deal, working on a day-after plan for Gaza and taking action against Lebanon’s Hezbollah in the north.

“Unfortunately, Netanyahu is preventing us from achieving real victory,” Gantz said, calling for new leadership that would better steer Israel through its crises.

Netanyahu posted a response on X as Gantz was still speaking, warning of a fractured government. “Israel is in an existential war on several fronts,” he wrote. “Benny, this is not the time to abandon the war — this is the time to join forces.”

International pressure has also mounted on Israel, as well as Hamas, to accept the cease-fire proposal. U.N. agencies and international aid organizations have repeatedly issued urgent pleas to allow for the increased and safe flow of aid into the battered territory.

Al Jazeera denied the Israeli Defense Ministry’s claim that a Palestinian journalist involved in the hostage taking had worked for the channel. It said Abdullah al-Jamal, in whose home three hostages were found, had never worked for Al Jazeera and had only contributed to an op-ed in 2019. Its statement said that these “allegations are a continuation of the process of slander and misinformation aimed at harming Al Jazeera’s reputation, professionalism, and independence.” It said the repeated false allegations have “become ridiculous.”

At least ​​37,124 people have been killed and 84,712 injured in Gaza since the war started, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between civilians and combatants but says the majority of the dead are women and children. Israel estimates that about 1,200 people were killed in Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack, including more than 300 soldiers, and it says 287 soldiers have been killed since the launch of its military operations in Gaza.

correction

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the Israeli raid on the Nuseirat refugee camp occurred Friday evening. The raid occurred Saturday. The article has been corrected.

John Hudson and Lior Soroka contributed to this report.