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Israel needs to do more to allow fuel and other aid into Gaza, the U.S. said on Tuesday as Israel's offensive against Hamas in southern areas of the Palestinian enclave intensified.

"The level of assistance that's getting in is not sufficient," U.S. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said at a press briefing. "It needs to go up, and we've made that clear to the government of Israel."

On Monday, 100 humanitarian aid trucks and about 69,000 litres of fuel were delivered to Gaza from Egypt, the United Nations said, about the same as Sunday.

"This is well below the daily average of 170 trucks and 110,000 litres of fuel that had entered during the humanitarian pause that took place between 24 and 30 November," UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told reporters on Tuesday.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, on his third trip to the Middle East since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel from Gaza, last week pressed the Israeli government to increase the flow of aid and to minimize civilian harm in its offensive against Hamas.

https://www.cbc.ca/news/world/israel-hamas-conflict-1.7049194

Why won't Israel allow more aid into Gaza? Is there some kind of security risk in allowing more trucks to get into Gaza, or is there another reason given by the government of Israel for not letting in as much aid as it before during the pause? I was thinking there might be a security reason, but as far as I know most of the weapons getting smuggled in come from tunnels between Gaza and Egypt.

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5 Answers 5

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We only know what Israeli officials choose to say in their public statements, which is not very much that I can find.

On October 9, the following statements from Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant were reported:

“I have ordered a complete siege on the Gaza Strip. There will be no electricity, no food, no fuel, everything is closed,” Gallant says following an assessment at the IDF Southern Command in Beersheba. “We are fighting human animals and we are acting accordingly,” he adds.

No further rationale was given as far as I can tell, and the last part suggests that Gallant feels none should be needed.

On October 18, Netanyahu's office issued a press statement, which I quote here in full:

In light of the sweeping and vital American support for the war effort, as well as US President Biden's request for basic humanitarian assistance, the streamlined Security Cabinet unanimously decided:

  1. Israel will not allow any humanitarian assistance from its territory to the Gaza Strip as long as our captives are not returned.
  2. Israel demands Red Cross visits with our captives and is working to mobilize broad international support for this demand.
  3. 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 located in the southern Gaza Strip or which is evacuating to there, and as long as these supplies do not reach Hamas. Any supplies that reach Hamas – will be prevented.

The reference to pressure from the United States gives this overall statement a begrudging tone. I'm not a lawyer but point #1 strikes me as a blatant admission of collective punishment which has absolutely nothing to do with preventing military assistance to Hamas. Point #2 isn't relevant to the question. While I don't doubt that Hamas makes use of whatever fuel or other resources they can, point #3 is very vague about the supposed security rationale for blocking aid on the Egyptian side.

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I won't get to Israeli motivations/statements much as that's been touched on in other answers aplenty, but an additional issue, as explained by the US is that Israel wants to inspect every truck--in Israel. So trucks that make it to Rafah have first to go to Israel then back to Egypt. E.g.

ADMINISTRATOR POWER: During the humanitarian pause, we established a new normal in terms of the flow of trucks into Gaza, getting up to around 250 trucks, getting up to 120,000 liters of fuel. Again, that should be the baseline going forward. There are many things that now are preventing us from reaching those numbers. Partly, it is because we need the inspections to move more quickly, and we need more inspection capacity. We understand very much why Israel wants to inspect what is going into Gaza after what happened on October 7. I think any country would wish to know what was going in, but that process absolutely can be accelerated. And opening Kerem Shalom to inspection – we heard from the UN, and from the Egyptian Red Crescent – would be very, very helpful.

According to Egypt and the US, this roundabout process

enter image description here

was the bottleneck, at least at one point, mid-November.

Miller: [...] The question is about screening mechanisms and being able to screen the number of trucks. There’s plenty of room for Rafah to get enough trucks through to deliver humanitarian assistance. The question has been getting those trucks screened, getting a significant – an appropriate number of trucks screened and in through Rafah. [...]

QUESTION: Does that mean Israel is dragging its feet or slow-walking those inspections?

MR MILLER: It means we have had – we have had difficulty reaching an agreement on the appropriate inspection mechanism. I’ll leave it at that.

Aslo, Israel doesn't want to let much fuel in, so it would not be diverted by Hamas. And, so that has had a ripple on effect on distributing aid inside Gaza, according to the US State Department mid-Nov:

Miller: [...] the implementers had run out of fuel to do that aid, and so we got fuel in yesterday to allow those delivery trucks to continue to do their work. But because – because the warehouses were full, no trucks moved in yesterday because they didn’t – they didn’t have anywhere to unload.

IDF-released footage shows that some Hamas tunnels have electrically powered ventilation and communication systems, even with air-conditioning units in some larger spaces. So not allowing fuel for generators to power that seems part of the reason.

And it's hard to find very explicit statements on this by officials, but my impression is that at least some of the extra aid was essentially conditioned on the release of hostages, at least in the way the ceasefire terms were arranged, or at least Hamas and some of the Western press understood them that way;

CNBC:

Aid trucks have begun to enter the Gaza Strip as part of the cease-fire and hostage release deal between Israel and Hamas.

Politico:

Hamas on Saturday delayed the second group of hostage releases under a four-day truce agreement amid a dispute with Israel over the amount of aid entering the Gaza Strip, according to media reports.

N.B., there was one US official (McGurk) who said something that can be interpreted like that, but... read it carefully... he claims Hamas wanted that kind of bargain:

Now, such a release of large number of hostages would result in a significant pause in fighting, a significant pause in fighting, and a massive surge of humanitarian relief — hundreds and hundreds of trucks on a sustained basis entering Gaza from Egypt.

And I have to say, Hamas from the earliest days has said, if you want the hostages returned, we need fuel, humanitarian, more humanitarian supplies. That’s the bargain they set.

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    Since Israel has found stuff hidden in the aid it should be obvious why they insist in their inspections. Dec 7, 2023 at 2:35
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In case of Elon Musk offering Starlink to "internationally recognized aid organizations", it was clearly told: regardless what you say, Hamas will use it immediately unless we strictly control. This may apply to some other humanitarian help like food because soldiers are humans too.

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    Ok, but internet access is not the 1st thing people consider under "humanitarian aid". The OP's question/quote is about trucks. Dec 6, 2023 at 14:32
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    What does "someone told Elon Musk so-and-so about Starlink" have to do with Israel refusing aid into Gaza?
    – gerrit
    Dec 7, 2023 at 14:02
  • Not "someone". It was was the official response from Israel. It was about the aid for Gaza.
    – Stančikas
    Dec 7, 2023 at 15:56
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The main goal of Israel's operation in Gaza is to destroy Hamas, so that they cannot repeat their 7/10 atrocities against Israeli citizens. But Hamas terrorists are hiding within tunnels, which makes it very difficult to get at them. The tunnels need fuel to operate the air conditioning system. By preventing fuel from entering Gaza, Israel wanted to make the tunnels unusable, so that Hamas terrorists are forced to get out and fight face-to-face.

Source:

"Fuel will not enter the Gaza Strip. Hamas needs it for its operational infrastructure," military spokesman Daniel Hagari said in statements cited by Haaretz newspaper. "Hamas can return the fuel it stole from UNRWA hospitals," he said.

Eventually, due to international pressure, Israel has allowed fuel into Gaza. Israeli ministers claimed that this would give Hamas much more time to survive in their tunnels.

Source:

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said "allowing fuel in is a grave mistake... gives oxygen to the enemy and allows [Hamas Gaza leader Yahya] Sinwar to sit comfortably in his air-conditioned bunker, watch the news and continue to manipulate Israeli society and the families of the abductees.

Unfortunately, the decision to let fuel into Gaza will make the war much longer, and as a result, the civilian suffering on both sides will be much harder.

EDIT: Additionally, Hamas steals most humanitarian aid, so it does not reach the citizens.

Source:

"a Gaza resident tells the Al-Jazeera TV channel... there is plenty of aid, but "all aid goes down (into Hamas tunnels). The aid does not reach the nation, all the people," she says. When the journalist from the pro-Palestinian Qatari channel tells her that only a small amount of aid is coming in and it is all being distributed, she shakes her fingers at him and says: "All of it goes into their houses. They take it and will even shoot me or do whatever they want, Hamas."

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    downvoted because of use of terrorism word. This is a biased word. for Palestinian, the state of Israel is the terrorism.
    – user42308
    Dec 14, 2023 at 14:16
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    @bouqbouq it's hard to be neutral on this. If one does not use the word "terrorists", it implies that the organization is legitimate, which is highly controversial. Dec 14, 2023 at 23:09
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While the question is based on the assumption that Israel is the sole responsible for the aid shortages (Why won't Israel allow more aid into Gaza?), there is also a counter-claim, placing the blame on the UNRWA (United Nations Relief Works Agency): Israel accuses UN of not doing enough to facilitate entry of aid into Gaza

The Defense Ministry body responsible for Palestinian civilian affairs accused the United Nations of not doing enough to process humanitarian aid into Gaza and charged that the world body is responsible for supplies not reaching the Strip at a fast enough pace.

“We have expanded our capabilities to conduct inspections for the aid delivered into Gaza. Kerem Shalom is to be opened, so the number of inspections will double. But the aid keeps waiting at the entrance of Rafah,” the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories, or COGAT, wrote Tuesday on X.

“The UN must do better — the aid is there, and the people need it,” the statement added.

The UN itself adopted a rather neutral position, blaming the difficulties of delivering aid in the conditions of war:

On December 8, the United Nations humanitarian chief said that efforts to supply food, water and other necessities were in tatters and that the UN and its partners are hampered by the need to find roads that haven’t been mined or destroyed.

For the last few days, aid distribution — mainly just supplies of flour and water — has been possible only in and around Rafah, on the border with Egypt, because of fighting and road closures by Israeli forces, the UN’s humanitarian aid office said Wednesday.

Gazans are apparently also of the opinion that the UN could do better:

Inside shelters and protected areas, civilians in Gaza have faced severe shortages of food, water and other basic goods. A video circulated on social media last Wednesday was said to show desperate Palestinians in Gaza ransacking a UN relief agency’s stockpile of supplies in the Strip, raising questions about the group’s distribution of aid.

The video appeared consistent with other footage and claims posted on popular Palestinian social media accounts that have expressed anger at the UN Relief and Works Agency, known as UNRWA, accusing it of holding on to much-needed aid.

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