Tonnes of foreign aid has been stacking up in trucks in Egypt’s Sinai, awaiting to enter Gaza through the Rafah crossing.
Israel said it will not stop humanitarian aid from entering Gaza through Egypt in response to the demands of United States President Joe Biden on Wednesday, though it will maintain a complete siege on the Strip.
The decision was announced by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday moments after Biden concluded his visit to Tel Aviv.
“In light of President Biden’s demand, Israel will not thwart humanitarian supplies from Egypt as long as it is only food, water and medicine for the civilian population in the southern Gaza Strip,” Netanyahu said in a statement.
The Israeli leader added that he will “not allow any humanitarian aid from its territory to the Gaza Strip” as long as the hostages are not released.
Shortly after Netanyahu’s statement, Biden said that up to 20 trucks would be granted entry to the Rafah crossing from Egypt on Friday. However, the delivery of humanitarian aid does not mean the lifting of the blockade.
Israel had ordered a complete siege on Gaza since the start of its deadly war on the Palestinian territory, exacerbating the struggle of the area’s 2.3 million population. Gaza has already been living under an Israeli air, land and sea blockade since 2007 that turned it into what has been widely described as “the world’s largest open-air prison”.
The complete blockade was announced amid the ongoing Israeli bombardment of Gaza that has killed at least 3,785 Palestinians, including at least 1,200 children—who represent a third of the total casualties.
The blockade has been widely slammed as a form of “collective punishment” on Palestinians.
The Israeli occupation forces (IOF) have also attacked the Egypt-Gaza Rafah crossing at least three times since last week, destroying much of the infrastructure on the Palestinian side. Rafah is the only Palestine-controlled crossing in Gaza and the only border in and out of the city.
On Monday, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry revealed that his country sought to keep the Rafah crossing open but Israel had prevented it from its side.
Meanwhile, tonnes of foreign aid has been stacking up in trucks in Egypt’s Sinai awaiting to enter Gaza through the Rafah crossing. Egypt had called on potential donors to instead deliver aid to Egypt’s Al Arish International Airport, where other aid flights have already landed.
On Monday, Qatar joined the international community in delivering aid to Gaza by dispatching the first of three Qatar Emiri Air Force flights to Al Arish International Airport in the Sinai peninsula, carrying 37 tonnes of aid.
Medics in Gaza are currently in a race against time to treat the injured with a lack of medical resources and almost a complete absence of water and electricity. The United Nations had also warned on Monday that Gaza’s hospitals are losing the last remaining fuel reserves, with backup generators shutting down.
On Tuesday, the IOF carried out a massacre at the Al-Ahli Arabi Baptist Hospital in Gaza, killing around 500 Palestinians. The attack, the biggest since 2008, took place at the hospital where hundreds were taking shelter after being forcibly displaced from their homes by the IOF’s bombardment.
However, Biden failed to condemn Israel and instead pointed the blame towards Palestinians, disregarding numerous investigations that had identified the IOF as the sole perpetrators.
“I was deeply saddened and outraged by the explosion of the hospital in Gaza yesterday, and based on what I’ve seen, it appears as though it was done by the other team, not you,” Biden said in Tel Aviv on Wednesday in a briefing alongside Netanyahu, in remarks understood to refer to Palestinian resistance groups.
Biden added: “But there’s a lot of people out there not sure, so we’ve got a lot, we’ve got to overcome a lot of things.”
On Wednesday, Amnesty International called on Biden to halt his support for Israel’s “indiscriminate killing” of Palestinians.
“In his face-to-face meetings, now is the time for President Biden to use the United States’ influence and urge the Israeli government to immediately stop the indiscriminate killing of Palestinian civilians and the targeting of civilian infrastructure and end its siege of Gaza,” Paul O’Brien, Amnesty International USA Executive Director, said in a statement on Wednesday.
Amnesty said that Biden should have instead called on “all parties” to uphold international law.
“Given the unique influence of the US in this moment, the President should have worked to de-escalate the violence and protect all civilians following the loss of life of thousands, and the deaths of hundreds yesterday at Gaza’s Al-Ahli Arab hospital,” O’Brien said.
The Amnesty official added: “Instead, the President maintained unreserved support for the Israeli government’s actions in the occupied Gaza Strip and West Bank and committed what appears to be further unconditional military support.”