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In a recent interview, Netanyahu said:

“When we started out putting in the humanitarian convoys, we said there will be one problem. And that is what if Hamas tries to steal the food and the drugs that we’re bringing for the civilian population, for its own terrorist forces?”

“I think the White House said on October 19 if that happens then the international community will have to stop the aid. It’s happened. In bundles. But nobody has asked to stop the aid, and we haven’t stopped it.”

[...]

Asked why more aid isn’t reaching Gaza by land, Netanyahu said: “Hamas is coming at gunpoint and stealing the food.

“Humanitarian deaths and starvation is, for us, it’s a tragedy. For them, it’s a strategy. They think that this will help them place more pressure on Israel to stop the war, leave them in place so they can repeat the October 7 massacre.”

There have been videos posted in the Western media with people rushing trucks and stealing aid, but I didn't see the "at gunpoint" aspect to that.

Since Israel has a lot of surveillance over Gaza, have they posted convincing evidence that this is happening on a massive scale, i.e. Hamas stealing aid at gunpoint, enough to affect the rest of the Gaza population?

I would prefer if non-Israeli media, and clear video evidence is presented. I'm aware of older Israeli-media articles like this, which claims that gunmen stole food, but it only has some segments of armed people sitting on top of trucks (as they are moving), and the purpose of those armed men has been disputed. E.g. some UN agencies and even US sources say that rather than stealing the aid, men like those were protecting it from being stolen.

After a string of Israeli attacks on members of Gaza’s Hamas-run civilian police force, officers withdrew earlier this month from the Palestinian side of the Kerem Shalom crossing with Israel. Since they left, trucks have been attacked in the crossing’s holding area, according to U.N. humanitarian coordinator James McGoldrick. [...]

“With the departure of police escorts it has been virtually impossible for the U.N. or anyone else ... to safely move assistance in Gaza because of criminal gangs,” U.S. Ambassador David Satterfield, appointed by President Biden to coordinate humanitarian aid to Gaza, said Friday.

So, is there clear evidence for Hamas stealing the aid at gunpoint? Enough to cause a humanitarian crisis? (Which also is information that Netanyahu says he doesn't have--in the same interview.)

What would I consider incontrovertible evidence? E.g. gunmen unloading an aid truck into a tunnel.

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  • As it often the case, it pays to think numerically as well. I looked up a sample humanitarian relief package which weighs 850g and cover requirements for 1 day. Assuming 50% of Gazan need such aid, you are looking at the order of 850t per day. Repeat diversion of food at that scale, will not have been unwitnessed by neutral, or pro-Palestine, parties. I've asked, and bountied, a similar question, about embedding in the past. Mar 14 at 16:00
  • @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica: the equivalent answer has been provided here: "look Hamas held-up a pickup truck, here's the video". The claim is then that that happens manyfold, too much for us to somehow have footage (of any other occurrences), or maybe that they are so boring that they don't make the news. Mar 14 at 16:12
  • FDD's pedigree is interesting too: In the initial documents filed for tax-exempt status with the Internal Revenue Service, FDD's stated mission was to "provide education to enhance Israel's image in North America and the public's understanding of issues affecting Israeli-Arab relations".[verify] Later documents described its mission as "to conduct research and provide education on international terrorism and related issues See also FDD Mar 14 at 16:14
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    Re. VTC vote: This question does not appear to be about governments, policies and political processes Really? In the midst of an food crisis splashed on international front pages everywhere, where both sides blame the other other entirely for causing the issue, and where Western governments are, obviously, skirming in their seats in how to proceed, this is irrelevant to this site??? Sure. Mar 14 at 16:25
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    Note on current bounty: the previous bounty was awarded on the basis of its conditions: an answer supporting Netanyahu's assertions that Hamas is causing the problem, coming from neutral or pro-Palestinian sources. So, no, it wasn't "awarded in error". No one came forward with credible sources that were not Israel-affiliated. I wrote the same bounty type before about Hamas embedding. An answer citing non-Israeli sources confirming such events got my bounty. Didn't happen here. Mar 27 at 16:37

5 Answers 5

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+500

The latest that I have encountered is this video, posted on Ynetnews a few days ago:
Watch: Palestinian gunmen open fire on Gazan civilians before humanitarian aid arrives

IDF states Palestinian gunmen opened fire about an hour before the entry of the aid convoy into the strip

As anything in this conflict, the video can be questioned: is it authentic? What does it exactly show? Are the gunmen affiliated to Hamas? How can we know that it is indeed Hamas' policy? The answers to these questions and the evidence will finally depend on what people believe in and which side they support. So this kind of "public evidence" is probably as good as it gets here.

Even the proven assertion that Hamas does expropriate food could be questioned by those, who believe that Hamas is the rightful government of Gaza and as such should be in control of food distribution. Indeed, it is partially on these grounds that Hamas, Qatar and Iran object to food deliveries bypassing Rafah and/or not coordinated with Hamas (notably the deliveries by ships.)

Update
To support the assertions made in the last paragraph: Hamas themselves have released a video of armed men riding a humanitarian aid convoy, characterizing it as "securing humanitarian aid for the Northern Gaza":

A video uploaded to the Telegram channel of the Hamas Ministry of the Interior’s Palestinian Civil Defense force on March 18, 2024, shows the force bringing in a humanitarian aid convoy into northern Gaza. In the video, a uniformed man tells the camera that the aid is being brought into the North Gaza Governorate. Armed men in uniform can be seen riding on top of the sacks of flour on the trucks.

Driver: "We are securing the entrance of aid to the North Gaza Governorate for the second consecutive day. We stopped at the Dawla Square, thanks to Allah. The trucks will now begin to enter the North Gaza Governorate, inshallah. Thanks, guys."

Update 2
MEMRI also has a compilation of statements by Gazans critical of Hamas, including the ones like:

During a December 6, 2023 live broadcast, an elderly Palestinian woman standing outside Nasser Hospital in Khan Yunis told a reporter for Qatar's Al-Jazeera network that Hamas operatives commandeer all the aid that is coming into the Gaza Strip and take it into their tunnels.

The plot against the residents of the Gaza Strip is not only external [i.e. from Israel], but also internal. The gas stations and the cooking gas depots are full, yet despite this, tens of thousands of suffering people have been queuing in front of the stations since the first day of the ceasefire, to no avail. The [Hamas] police are summoned to beat these people with clubs. The police take as much fuel as they want for themselves and their associates, and as much as they need for commercial purposes, [namely, in order] to sell it at five times the usual price. Then they leave, having accomplished their national mission… Anyone who thinks that I am exaggerating should go to these stations and see for themselves what is happening to the people. Oh resistance, is this what the home front [looks like]?

Beyond the naïve
In reality situation is more complex than one could conclude from the mainstream media reports aimed at laymen. Indeed, before the war Hamas was the de facto government in Gaza, providing, among other things, security for the Humanitarian aid shipments and organizing its distribution. Since now Israel does not acknowledge Hamas even as a de facto Gaza government, any attempts by Hamas to control aid shipments and distribution are considered as theft. Moreover, the Hamas police officers attempting any such actions are targeted by IDF, as a "police officer" is just an euphemism for a "Hamas fighter". According to a US diplomat:

According to Sutterfeld, Israeli forces earlier this month killed Palestinian police — among them Hamas operatives — protecting a UN aid convoy in the enclave’s southern city of Rafah. As a result, Sutterfeld said they have since refused to protect convoys, hampering aid deliveries inside Gaza because of threats from criminal gangs.
[...]
Satterfield said the police escorts include Hamas members but also officers with no direct affiliation to the terror group.

Both Hamas and Israel are trying to co-opt local clans for securing and distributing the Humanitarian aid:

Hamas has recently been attempting to seize control of the delivery and distribution of humanitarian aid entering the Gaza Strip, out of recognition that such control is critical to maintaining its rule and its grip on the populace.1 These efforts were spurred by reports that Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) are in contact with armed clans in Gaza with the aim of establishing a local Palestinian force to replace the Hamas administration, which will distribute the humanitarian aid to the civilian population. [...] At the same time, Hamas is evidently attempting to conceal its direct involvement in, and control of, the delivery of the aid, presumably in order to deceive Israeli and international elements that are likely to oppose this. It is doing so by acting through proxies, such as "the Popular Defense Committees", whose members explicitly note that they are subordinate to the Hamas interior ministry, and "Palestinian clans" which openly assert that they will cooperate with Hamas.

Note that the US favors the Palestinian authority overtaking the control of Gaza, and might be involved in the measures described in the first paragraph.

See also: Palestinian clans and factions step in to protect Gaza aid, sources say by Reuters

Obviously, any clans trying to bypass Hamas in distributing the humanitarian aid are considered by the latter as Israel's collaborators:

Hamas terrorists executed a leader in the powerful Doghmush clan in Gaza this week after claiming the group had been stealing humanitarian aid and may have been in contact with Israel.

October 16 incident
On October 16, 2023 UNRWA published a tweet, claiming that Hamas is stealing the Humanitarian aid, but later retracted it (or simply quietly deleted):
Times of Isreal: UNRWA indicates Hamas stole supplies from its Gaza premises, then walks back claim
Haaretz: UNRWA Walks Back Statement Accusing Hamas of Stealing Humanitarian Aid From Gaza Compound
Wall Street Journal: The Gaza Hospital and the Missing Aid. Hamas steals from a U.N. refugee agency, which plays along.

(Image from the link provided by the Times of Israel) enter image description here

Gaza clans involvement
There is some debate about the extent of Gaza clans collaboration with Israel and/or Palestinian Authority. According to The Japan Times:

The Israelis weren’t acting at the clan’s request. Rather, all three — Hamas, clans and the Israeli military — are engaged in a bloody battle for control of north Gaza and aid distribution, making an already troubled process more dangerous and unreliable. Famine is a threat, and people are beginning to die of hunger, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

While Hamas and the media sympathetic deny that any of the clans collaborate with Israel, Hamas found it necessary to publish a statement threatening anyone who engages in such a collaboration (see also here):

Conceding to Israel’s proposition would constitute “direct collaboration with the Occupation and a national betrayal that we will not tolerate,” Hamas’s security source reportedly told Al-Majd Al-Amni.

Hamas will handle those who disrupt the internal front in the strip “with an iron fist” and will not permit the imposition of new rules, according to the source cited by the outlet.

The source said that arming families and clans is an attempt by the Occupation to offset battlefield losses, describing the move as “political games within the Gaza Strip.” They described the Occupation’s attempt to concoct entities to manage the strip as a “failed conspiracy.”

On the other hand, the Israeli media seems to be more preoccupied not with the question of whether the clans would collaborate, but rather whether the clans are reliable as a replacement for Hamas in a long term:
Times of Israel : Relying on local clans to run postwar Gaza should be off the table, experts warn
Haaretz: Israel Seeks to Let Armed Gangs Control Gaza, but Could Find Hamas Back in Charge
Ynetnews: Next to head the Strip? Gaza's most influential clans

The involvement of Palestinian Authority (unclear, whether backed up by Israel or the US) is manifested by the recent arrest by Hamas of several PA affiliated men, and by Hamas accusing PA of trying to infiltrate Gaza.

Finally, The New Humanitarian reports that Israel has been trying to step up food delivery in Gaza for a long time, but not with much success:

Israel has been working for months to create a parallel system for aid delivery in the Gaza Strip that excludes the UN and other international humanitarian organisations with a long-standing presence in the enclave, more than a dozen international and local aid workers have told The New Humanitarian.

Update 26/04:2024
According to recent PCPSR poll the Palestinians themselves do not think that the food distribution is fair, with the greatest number of complaints against the Local Palestinian Group (which refers to Hamas and possibly other groups, whereas government refers to the Palestinian authority in the West Bank):
enter image description here

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    So Hamas started shooting at the convey an hour before it entered the Gaza strip, so I assume while it was on Israeli territory? There was an attack in Israel on a truck destined to the Gaza strip by Hamas?
    – quarague
    Mar 19 at 12:31
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    Well @Dolphin613Motorboat comments show that what the IDF actually said is somewhat more plausible, you just wrote that everyone can believe what they want and didn't address the fact that the verbatim statement by ynet you quoted is somewhere between highly implausible to clearly non-sensical. So ynet garbled a statement by the IDF and you quoted them without questioning which shows mostly something about the reliability of ynet and less about the facts.
    – quarague
    Mar 19 at 12:40
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    @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica MEMRI supplies actual references to videos, articles, etc., so that anyone can verify the information. One can question the selection of materials and their interpretation, but they are certainly authentic. Mar 25 at 17:19
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    @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica Also, while we are still at MEMRI : here is an article discussing Hamas-UNRWA collaboration and Israel/PA vs. Hamas struggle for controlling food deliveries. There is also long Mada Masr article about the private companies controlling the aid deliveries via Rafah. Let's move on from the mainstream media clichés (even if feeding into them scores some reputation points.) Mar 25 at 17:31
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    @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica Indeed, I'd say that this person starts with the wrong premises: 1) Partisanship means that one's refuses or agrees to accept facts, depending on whether they suit their preferences - like complaining about bad weather, because one is grumpy, even though the sky is blue and the sun is shining. I am not even sure what 50/50 means in this case. 2) Dichotomy - identifying Hamas with Gaza and Palestinians, and Israel with Netanyahu and some extremists in his government - as if it were a football game where one supports either one or the other side. [contd.] Mar 26 at 5:50
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There does not appear to be evidence to support this claim.

While it is true that looting of aid has been observed, incidents have not involved guns and have not been linked to Hamas. Take for example:

  • Civilians looting warehouses in October, reported by the UN
  • Looting of convoys in early February, relayed to the BBC by the UN. Note, it is suspected that some of the looters in this incident were gang members, because some looted goods began to appear on the market in Gaza instead of being freely distributed. However, there is no evidence that Hamas was involved in this incident. I will reference this article again later on.
  • Civilians looting trucks in late February, reported by the WFP
  • An incident with civilians at the start of March, reported by the BBC. Without debating the IDF tank, or the claims of IDF attacks, it is clear that orderly distribution of this aid quickly broke down, resulting in what could be described as looting. However, it appears that it was civilians who were taking the resources.

All of this is to say that there is evidence of aid looting in Gaza. However, it is widely believed outside of Israel and Palestine that the looting of aid is being done by gangs who are trying to make money and Palestinian civilians who are becoming desperate for aid. This is exacerbated by the decline in Palestinian police protecting aid convoys, which the police attribute to the loss of eight men during IDF raids.

Netanyahu's claim of Hamas stealing food at gunpoint is dubious. For starters, this claim has been used by the Israeli government for months. The February 12th article from the BBC which I linked above mentions that the Israeli embassy in London made the same claim back then. Even in December, a spokesman for the Israeli government said in an interview with Sky News (at 0:44):

"And we know now that Hamas is diverting and stealing aid from the people of Gaza."

He continues (0:58):

"To the extent we can be assured that Hamas is not stealing that aid, which it is."

So this is a claim which has been made multiple times by different members of the Israeli government, yet they do not provide evidence to substantiate it. If this is something which the IDF and the Israeli government have honestly been seeing for months, then these officials should be able to provide evidence for it when they make these claims. This lack of evidence has been noted by David Satterfield, an American government official who was appointed as the US special envoy for Middle East humanitarian issues. In a February interview with the CEIP, Satterfield stated (20:35):

"No Israeli official has come to me, come to the administration with specific evidence of diversion or theft of assistance delivered by the UN in the centre or the South of Gaza. The North's a different story."

In what I believe is an explanation of the comment about North Gaza, Satterfield goes on to discuss how Hamas does have influence in groups such as the Palestinian Red Crescent Society, and that this influence can shape where assistance goes. However, he reiterates in no uncertain terms that there have been no allegations of interference with UN assistance. Satterfield also explains that convoys have been attacked by civilians and criminals (see the gangs mentioned in the February BBC article).

What makes verifying the claim of theft more difficult is that outside journalists are not being permitted into Gaza. This is echoed in the February BBC article which I have referred to a few times. Information about the situation has been coming from reporters who were already in Gaza when the fighting began. Reporters in Gaza are being killed (see this CPJ report), which further limits the amount of information coming from the ground in Gaza.

To recap, Netanyahu's claim is one which has been made by the Israeli government for months, despite a lack of evidence or requests of assistance to external governments and organizations. Based on this, it is doubtful that it is true. The kernel of truth is that there has been looting. However, providers of aid and the outside world generally agree that these were caused by desperate civilians and profiteering gangs, not Hamas.

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    It would appear that your entire argument falls apart if "profiteering gangs" = "Hamas", something you have not demonstrated to be false, yet seems to be assumed. You're not going to find guys in military uniforms with "Hamas" written on them to identify members of Hamas so it stands to reason that it's possible that the cases where gangs loot aid convoys (which you do have evidence of occuring) are just Hamas looting convoys.
    – uberhaxed
    Mar 19 at 9:14
  • I agree that Hamas could be involved in looting. However, the international community believes these to be criminal gangs, since the stolen goods are appearing on the market instead of apparently disappearing for sustaining Hamas. Even if every single presumed gang member were a Hamas operative, that doesn't mean my argument falls apart. They are not robbing these convoys at gunpoint, which is the claim that Netanyahu states. If you have found evidence that they are in fact robbing them at gunpoint, I would like to see it. Until then, my argument that the claim is untrue stands. Mar 19 at 9:57
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    One interesting way to look at this too is, again, numerical. Hamas started out with 30k fighters and might be down to 10k. If 850t of aid - about enough to cover the 50% of Gazans in need of aid - was delivered every day, that would mean each and every Hamas fighter, while dodging IDF munitions, would have to steal, and secrete, 85kg, every day. Seems both like a risky occupation and a militarily daft one - your troops need to be fighting, not effin around near food warehouses and trucks. Some Hamas stealing? For sure. Enough to tip the scale? Let's see what surfaces as answers. Mar 19 at 15:28
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    Kind of a non-answer, but that's the way it goes. We've had months of warnings about food security, months of "it's Hamas' fault" by Israel. I do believe we'd have more credible evidence, and non-Israeli testimonies, of Hamas stealing at the scale necessary to affect Gaza this badly if it was only Hamas' fault. Does Hamas suck? Absolutely. Is it a terrorist entity, on the more extreme scale of the genre? Definitely. Does it steal supplies? Quite likely. Enough to vanish food for 2m people without trace or solid neutral evidence? Hmmm, not taking Smotrich's word for it. Mar 25 at 16:23
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The general statement has been made since October, including from reputable sources. However, a few weeks ago (mid-February 2024) a US special envoy came to the conclusion that there is "no specific evidence" that Hamas is stealing aid shipments.

There are a number of isolated incidents with video evidence showing armed men stealing aid shipments, such as

Though the usual problems - difficult to ascertain when and where the video was made, if the armed attackers are affiliated with Hamas or not, etc. (some reports speak of "gangs").

So, at this time, I think the most we can say is: Yes, some aid shipments apparently are stolen. We can not say for certain that Hamas is doing it, or that it is happening on a large scale.

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  • The Times of Israel October article starts about Hamas stockpiling food and fuel. It then mostly talks about fuel. It does not talk about the recent hijacking food aid and that would have been before the real start of the food emergency in any case. Mar 19 at 21:40
  • Obviously, an article from October can't talk about more recent events. The main point, however - that Hamas is withholding supplies from the population - is the same, which is why I have included it alongside more recent articles.
    – Tom
    Mar 20 at 5:21
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    @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica: "US envoy: Israel hasn’t provided ‘specific evidence’ Hamas is stealing aid shipments" is dated 17 February 2024. Mar 24 at 8:08
  • One of the ironies is that if the US were presented with such evidence they'd pretty much have to stop US-based organizations from helping Gaza (altogether) or at least look pretty badly by not enforcing their anti-terrorism legislation law.stackexchange.com/questions/101894/… The recent defunding of UNRWA was pretty much in that vein. Apr 11 at 7:17
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The FDD's brief I linked to in the other answer links to this article (Israeli news website in English) that has one such surveillance video.

Non-Israeli sites would be relying on the Israeli reports, so why not prefer the source? It's not like the Jordanians are flying their own drones there.

As to whether it's enough to cause a crisis? Who knows. The same FDD brief talks about Hamas not allowing cooperation with Israel on distribution, so the aid may be flowing, but not effectively distributed because no-one is willing to work with the IDF on the coordination. The Israelis, from their side, don't want to work with Hamas/UNRWA, for obvious reasons.

This quote is interesting:

“With the departure of police escorts it has been virtually impossible for the U.N. or anyone else ... to safely move assistance in Gaza because of criminal gangs,”

Who are these "criminal gangs"? Where did they get their weapons? It's easy to dismiss this as "some random guys with guns", but what makes you think they're not the Hamas militants? What would "criminal gangs" be doing with this aid in Gaza?


Side comment:

What would I consider incontrovertible evidence? E.g. gunmen unloading an aid truck into a tunnel.

That's not how it works. Most Hamas operatives would appear to you just as any other civilian. Most tunnel entrances won't be in the middle of the street, they'd be inside houses and buildings. So you'll see a perfectly legit civilian taking food to a perfectly legit storage room, but if you look closely - the food then would never be leaving that room ever again.

That's not something that you can post as a short video clip, it's days of surveillance.

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    So, that's the sum of evidence? Two or three gunmen attacking a small pickup loaded with random junk in the back? Mar 14 at 7:04
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    @Dolphin613Motorboat that's what was released to public, that's not what's released to Netanyahu or intelligence agencies. While I can understand your frustration, you need to realize that intelligence gathering is a tricky task and Israel wouldn't want to disclose its methods and systems to the public unnecessarily. See my "Side comment" - you expect Hamas to make a show for you, but that's not how things work in reality. In reality its mundane boring hours of videos until an analyst realizes "oh... Package went in... Never went out" and boom goes the building with the tunnel entrance.
    – littleadv
    Mar 14 at 7:06
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    As for the rest of your explanation, it's Netanyahu who says it's happening at gunpoint. He's not claiming it's done by inconspicuous/unarmed 'civilians' taking these to some Hamas tunnel. Mar 14 at 7:09
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    @Dolphin613Motorboat you discounted the evidence you have. You expect people in shiny uniform digging holes in the middle of the street. The reality is different. I can't speak for Netanyahu and what evidence he has and hasn't released to the public, but I can speak to the evidence already present in your own question which kindof shows exactly what you're asking for, you just don't/can't see it.
    – littleadv
    Mar 14 at 7:11
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    @Dolphin613Motorboat it's an example of intelligence and evidence, not everything is a nicely packaged video. That particular recording was released because a) the doctor was clearly unaware his phone was tapped, so low risk for retaliation, and b) Israel was accused of never delivering the fuel. Most evidence you're interested in will never be made public.
    – littleadv
    Mar 14 at 7:29
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From all accounts Hamas prepared their raid on the October 7th last year over an extended period of time. They would have had ample time to secure their food and medical supply. And it would have been important to do so. After all, there is a saying attributed to both Napoleon and Frederick the Great, that an army marches on its stomach. This simply underlines how important it is for an army to secure its food supply before fighting.

I haven't come across any reputable stories in the media that Hamas has stolen food or medical supplies given as aid. To my mind, that Israel is saying so is part of their propaganda effort to paint Hamas as savages.

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    I downvoted this, flagged as NAA and voted to delete. How does this even attempt to answer the question, which asks for evidence? Where are the references? This is a comment, not an answer. Mar 25 at 11:23
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    Given how hard it is to prove a negative, I'm not sure how one would be expected to prove that there's no evidence of this happening, but... most of this does seem irrelevant to the question.
    – F1Krazy
    Mar 25 at 11:55
  • @Timur Shtatland: The question is about whether there is "clear public evidence". Well, there is clear public evidence that Hamas' raid on the 7th was carefully planned. From this one can deduce that they would have secured their medical & food supply Mar 30 at 13:23
  • You assume Hamas wanted to avoid Gazan casualties. youtube.com/watch?v=Yg4VqiW0dyo
    – Zev Spitz
    Apr 1 at 7:17
  • @Zev Spitz: Like the guy said, it's the responsibility of the occupying force to protect civilians under the Geneva Conventions. Well, we've seen how that has worked out - Israel is doing f'all to protect them. In fact, we know that they are tagetting them - because they said so. Apr 2 at 5:44

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