Israeli settler attack on aid convoys highlights struggle to help Gazans

Vandalism, border closures and inadequate alternatives pose challenges to efforts to tackle humanitarian crisis

The UN has called for Israel to allow more aid lorries to enter Gaza, where people face famine and a lack of critical supplies. AFP
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Two aid convoys from Jordan trundle along a road in the occupied West Bank, carrying food, flour and humanitarian supplies to Gaza.

Suddenly, close to the illegal Israeli settlement of Ma’ale Adumim, people wearing masks emerge, block the road and vandalise the lorries. Despite the damage, the vehicles make it to Gaza, although they lose some of their goods.

The incident happened on Wednesday amid continuing tension between Israel and donor countries, among them some of Israel’s closest allies, who are rushing to send resources to address Gaza’s humanitarian crisis.

“People since October 7 don’t understand why and don’t think that Israel needs to be supplying what they see as the enemy,” says Israeli commentator Anshel Pfeffer.

“It’s a large popular feeling among Israelis who disagree with Israel being expected to supply an enemy population.”

Israel recently reopened the Erez border crossing in northern Gaza, a vital step in allowing more supplies to enter the besieged enclave, where people face critical shortages of aid.

Israel says hundreds of lorries now enter Gaza every day. The UN warns that less than half the number of lorries needed, about 500, are crossing into enclave.

Some Israelis who have been enraged by aid efforts have for months blocked access to the Karam Abu Salem crossing and vandalised lorries. Those people are a diverse group: young men, dual citizens who speak perfect English in media interviews, even mothers carrying babies.

Order 9, the group responsible for Wednesday’s attack in the West Bank, is a perfect example. “Order 9 is just a group of people who organise on Facebook. It didn’t exist before the war. It’s all very ad hoc,” Mr Pfeffer says.

Their actions, however disorganised, have serious consequences for people in Gaza, where humanitarian organisations and the UN warn of a mounting civilian catastrophe fuelled by famine and a lack of vital supplies at hospitals.

To compensate, several countries have dropped pallets of aid from military planes.

It is an inadequate response. One aircraft is capable of carrying about one lorry’s worth of aid. Gazans, including children, have been injured by the pallets or drowned while trying to retrieve supplies that and off the coast. There are concerns that such a chaotic way of distributing aid benefits criminal gangs who aim to sell the supplies at an inflated price.

More humanitarian supplies may soon enter the enclave from the sea, with the US making progress on a floating pier that will allow ships to offload aid. The project has the capacity to bring a lot more supplies in than air drops, but questions remain about its practicality.

No plans have been made public about who will inspect, distribute and secure the aid once it has been taken from the pier.

“Who will control the area around the pier? Will it be Hamas, a different Palestinian entity, an international force, or Israel? I think it will create a lot of unintended implications that could have some interesting influence on future developments,” Mr Pfeffer says.

“Something built by the Americans will have a standing unlike any other structure in Gaza. Israel won’t be able to carry out attacks nearby. You can see a situation in which Hamas rushes forces into the area or pushes civilians into the area.”

Updated: May 03, 2024, 2:55 PM