Israel cannot create same scale of displacement in south Gaza as it did in north, US says

US military assists in 'relief flights' to bring aid to Gaza

Palestinians cross from the northern Gaza Strip to the south after Israel and Hamas agreed to a temporary truce. EPA
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Israel cannot recreate scale of displacement from northern Gaza when its operation moves to the south, a senior US official said, arguing that if replicated, the impacts would be “beyond the capacity of any humanitarian support network”.

A senior official from President Joe Biden's administration told reporters on Monday evening that “from the President down”, Washington has been clear to Israel that “when it moves to the south, it must be done in a way … not designed to produce significant further displacement of persons”.

“It will be beyond disruptive, it will be beyond the capacity of any humanitarian support network, however reinforced, however robust, to be able to cope with. It can't happen,” the official emphasised.

Israel's military bombardment of Gaza in response to the deadly October 7 Hamas attacks has so far killed almost 15,000 Palestinians.

The focus on northern Gaza has already displaced about 1.7 million people, nearly three quarters of Gaza's population, with 900,000 packing into crowded UN-run shelters, according to the world body.

The US is one of Israel's closest and most uncritical allies, providing the country with more aid than any other nation. Following the Hamas attacks, Biden administration moved quickly to secure billions more in funding for Israel as it carries out its military operation in Gaza.

The administration official signalled Washington has urged its ally to be “extremely careful” as it plans to move south.

The official added that it “also has to be conducted in a way that is maximally deconflicted with humanitarian facilities”, including hospitals, water and UN-supported shelters.

“We have these discussions on a constant basis with Israel. And if you ask me to characterise the response, it's a receptive one,” the official added.

Last week, Gaza's Health Ministry said it had stopped co-ordinating with the World Health Organisation in evacuating patients and medical staff from hospitals after Israel arrested a number of people at Al Shifa Hospital, the largest in the besieged enclave.

Israeli forces had earlier stormed Al Shifa after encircling it and bombing areas adjacent to hospital buildings, killing scores of people, as about 1,500 sheltered inside. Israel claimed there was a series of tunnels located under the hospital.

Meanwhile, the US military on Tuesday assisted in relief flights carrying “medical items, food aid and winter items” into Gaza from Egypt, a senior official said.

The official said “the first of three relief flights that are facilitated by the unique capabilities of the US military” were due to arrive in the northern Sinai in Egypt on Tuesday, bound for Gazans in desperate need of aid after weeks of Israeli military bombardment.

"US Centcom supported USAID by airlifting more than 54,000 pounds [24,500 kilograms] of humanitarian supplies to provide medical supplies and food to the people of Gaza," Central Command said on X.

The UN will distribute the goods, which the official said will include “more food stocks, specific food items for children, winter clothing and additional food supplies”.

The military-assisted deliveries build on five previous commercially supported flights that came in to northern Egypt.

The official refused to respond to questions over whether the assistance flights were a form of pressure on the Israeli government to further extend a four-day truce that received a two-day expansion on Monday.

“The intent here is simply to ensure a significant flow of humanitarian assistance, and particularly the kind of humanitarian assistance that is needed right now some of the winterisation items that I mentioned are arriving quickly,” the official said.

Updated: November 29, 2023, 6:09 AM