Gazans question why it took death of foreign workers to force Israel concessions

Palestinians say killing of six foreign nationals has had bigger effect on West than death of more than 33,000 Gazans

Palestinians flee the site of an Israeli aid strike in central Gaza city. AFP
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Gazans questioned Israel's reasons for reopening the Erez border crossing between the country and the besieged enclave this week, a decision that came amid international pressure over the killing of foreign aid workers in an Israeli strike.

Israel on Friday announced measures to increase the flow of aid into Gaza, including “temporarily” opening Ashdod port and Erez crossing, also known as Beit Hanoun crossing. Deliveries from Jordan are also set to rise.

“The increased aid will prevent a humanitarian crisis and is necessary to ensure the continuation of the fighting and to achieve the goals of the war,” an Israeli government official said.

Israel has maintained tight control over the flow of aid into Gaza during six months of war. More than 33,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli attacks, the vast majority of them civilians.

Gazans told The National they believed that pressure from the US after the deadly strike on a World Central Kitchen aid convoy led Israel to reopen the border crossing. Seven WCK workers were killed in the attack, including a US-Canadian dual citizen.

“It looks like the lives of foreign people are so precious that we finally started to hear anger from [Us President Joe Biden] and his interest in increasing the amount of aid that will enter Gaza,” Ahmad Zidan, 30, told The National.

Israel announced the opening of the crossing hours after Mr Biden held a phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in which the US leader issued warning about Israel's actions in the war and called for “an immediate ceasefire”.

Israel said the strikes that killed one Palestinian and six foreign citizens near the central city of Deir Al Balah were a “grave mistake”. The WCK called for an independent investigation into the attack.

The aid workers killed in Monday's attack were British citizens James Kirby, 47, James Henderson, 33, and John Chapman, 57, Palestinian driver Saifeddin Issam Abu Taha, 25, Australian Lalzawmi Frankcom, 43, Damian Sobol, 35, from Poland, and American-Canadian Jacob Flickinger, 33.

A total of 203 humanitarian workers have been killed in Gaza since the war began in October, the Aid Worker Security Database showed. The vast majority were Palestinian.

White House 'outraged' by Israeli strike that kills seven World Central Kitchen aid workers

White House 'outraged' by Israeli strike that kills seven World Central Kitchen aid workers

Mr Zidan, who lives in the northern city of Jabalia, expressed hope that an increase in aid would help Palestinians to rebuild their lives in Gaza.

“We hope they open the borders and organise the distribution of aid, because we have already lost enough lives from people running after aid lorries and going after air drops,” he said.

Mona Al Saeed, 45, is living in a relative's house after her home in Gaza city was damaged by Israeli strikes. She echoed Mr Zidan's sentiments, saying the lives of Gazans seem to matter less than those of western citizens.

She said Palestinians needed more than aid. “People need to understand that we are seeking a life of dignity, not just an increase in aid," she added.

Sami Abed Al Wahab, 35, seemed more hopeful. He is living in the southern city of Rafah, where most of Gaza's 2.3 million population has sought shelter from the war.

“Everyone is now wondering how they will resume their lives and if the war will end soon or not. But I feel that all the recent reactions are leading towards ending the war, which is what we really hope for,” he told The National.

On Friday, the EU called for the “swift” and full implementation of Israel's pledge to reopen the Erez border crossing and allow Ashdod port to be used for aid. The bloc also repeated its call for Israel to “protect innocent civilians and aid workers, in line with international humanitarian law”.

Updated: April 06, 2024, 5:23 AM