Gaza aid convoy 'must not be the last', says UN relief chief as lorries cross border

The aid was delivered as the humanitarian crisis in Gaza worsens

A convoy of lorries carrying humanitarian aid enter the Gaza Strip from Egypt via the Rafah border crossing on October 21, 2023. AFP
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The first convoy carrying aid into the besieged Gaza Strip on Saturday “must not be the last”, the UN's humanitarian aid chief said as lorries loaded with supplies entered the war-torn enclave.

Martin Griffiths, the Undersecretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Co-ordinator, welcomed the news of the delivery, the first since the outbreak of hostilities on October 7, and warned that the humanitarian situation has reached “catastrophic levels”.

“I am confident that this delivery will be the start of a sustainable effort to provide essential supplies … to the people of Gaza,” said Mr Griffiths after 20 lorries crossed from Egypt into Gaza.

“This first convoy must not be the last,” he warned.

The aid includes life-saving supplies provided by the Egyptian Red Crescent and the United Nations which are approved to cross and be received by the Palestinian Red Crescent, with the support of the UN.

“The people of Gaza have endured decades of suffering. The international community cannot continue to fail them,” Mr Griffiths added.

Aid agencies have warned that the first delivery is a small amount for a population of 2.3 million who were heavily dependent on humanitarian assistance even before basic supplies, water, fuel and electricity were cut off.

There was no word immediately available on whether there would be further shipments of humanitarian supplies to Gaza from Egypt.

However, Egyptian officials said the delivery of further aid depended on the release by Hamas of civilians who are among the estimated 200 Israelis the militant Palestinian group's fighters took hostage when they attacked Israel on October 7.

Qatar is taking the lead in negotiating the release of hostages, said the officials.

Saturday's delivery follows days of intense negotiations to make sure that the aid operation into Gaza began as quickly as possible and with the right conditions.

“Two weeks since the start of hostilities, the humanitarian situation in Gaza – already precarious – has reached catastrophic levels. It is critical that aid reaches people in need wherever they are across Gaza, and at the right scale” Mr Griffiths' statement read.

Lorries laden with aid supplies entered the Palestinian territories from Egypt's Rafah border crossing on Saturday.

The delivery of aid to Gaza, battered by relentless Israeli bombardment, will ease the blockade enforced by Israel in the wake of Hamas's surprise attack on October 7 that killed 1,400 people, including women and children.

Aid enters Rafah crossing to Gaza

Aid enters Rafah crossing to Gaza

The launch of the aid operation ends more than a week-long wait by some 200 lorries on the Egyptian side of the Rafah crossing in the Sinai Peninsula.

The Israeli blockade denied Gaza's Palestinians water, fuel and electricity as its military killed more than 4,000 Palestinians and displaced one million.

Egyptian volunteers at the Egyptian side of the border crossing waved the lorries off, chanting pro-Palestinian slogans and waving Egyptian and Palestinian flags. The volunteers later offered a prayer of thanks.

Updated: October 21, 2023, 5:21 PM