Israel accused of deliberately blocking humanitarian aid to Gaza

Israel has until Friday to submit a report to the ICJ providing details of what it is doing to enable the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza

Palestinians carry bags of flour they grabbed from an aid truck near an Israeli checkpoint in Gaza City, February 19, 2024. Reuters
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Humanitarian organisations operating in Palestinian territories on Tuesday said that Israel was deliberately obstructing the delivery of aid in the besieged Gaza Strip.

It comes after Israel has claimed that it is doing its best to protect civilian lives.

The NGOs called on Israel's strongest allies – the US and Germany – to match their expressions of concern over the civilian suffering in Gaza with actions that could include a suspension of weapon sales to Israel.

“Our efforts to deliver life-saving aid are deliberately obstructed by Israel,” said Sally Abi Khalil, regional director of Oxfam in the Middle East and North Africa.

“Most assistance is unable to go beyond Rafah or Khan Younis, leaving critical needs unmet in Gaza city and the north.

“We are hearing report after report of Palestinians forced to eat animal feed and fodder, of people dying from hunger and of women who cannot produce breast milk.”

Israel has until Friday to submit a report to the International Court of Justice, providing details of what it has done to comply with the world's top court January 26 request that it take all measures to prevent acts of genocide in the Gaza Strip.

In a binding order, the court requested that Israel “take immediate and effective measures” to enable the entry of humanitarian assistance into the enclave where close to 30,000 people have been killed since October.

But aid workers said that Israel had done nothing to enforce the order – and the situation had instead worsened.

“We can say there is no way that it can be justified in any way possible that Israel has fulfilled its obligations to implement the provisional measures,” said Erika Guevara Rosas, senior director for research at Amnesty International.

“If anything, it's been a downturn” since January 26, said Jeremy Konyndyk, president of Refugees International.

“There’s been smaller proportion of aid missions being allowed to the north and there has been no perceptible increase in the number of lorries getting in,” he added.

UAE aid ship arrives in Al Arish in Egypt - in pictures

Mr Konydnyk's comments came shortly after the World Food Programme said it would pause its aid deliveries in north Gaza due to “complete chaos and violence.”

Israel allowed the WFP's aid lorries into northern Gaza on Sunday and Monday after a three-week halt.

About 300,000 people are believed to still be living in the north of Gaza and face the possibility of famine, the UN says.

The WFP has said that one in six children in the area are acutely malnourished. Before the war, malnutrition was rare among Gazan children.

Another 1.3 million Gazans have fled to the southern city of Rafah.

Israel has warned it is preparing a military incursion into Rafah, but aid agencies and Palestinians have said they have nowhere left to flee.

Jordanian and Dutch airforce drop supply to Gaza hospital - in pictures

The only solution is a ceasefire, say NGOs.

“The consequences of a full-scale assault on Rafah are truly unimaginable,” said Avril Benoit, executive director of Doctors Without Borders in the US.

“Carrying out a military offensive there would turn it into a graveyard.”

Rafah is the end of the line, she told reporters.

“It's the last hub of healthcare services and humanitarian assistance for the people in Gaza.”

The Israeli war cabinet has warned that it will go ahead with the offensive by next month unless Hamas frees all the hostages it still holds.

It was the Palestinian group's attacks on October 7 against Israel, which killed about 1,200 Israelis, that sparked the Israeli military response in Gaza.

Hamas is considered a terror group by most western countries and Israel.

The humanitarian crisis caused by the war has caused concern in western capitals but no Israeli ally has exerted significant pressure for the military to change course.

“There is a weird dynamic when we talk to American policymakers about this,” said Mr Konydnyk.

“There is wide recognition up to highest levels of US government about just how bad it is getting within Gaza, [but] they are still extending great deference to the Israeli government despite most or virtually all of their pleas being completely ignored.”

Aid from the UAE permitted to enter Gaza - video

Aid from the UAE permitted to enter Gaza

Aid from the UAE permitted to enter Gaza

Tsafrir Cohen, executive director of Medico international, said that “the political constellation in Israel, is such that without external pressure, these atrocities will not end”.

“It is therefore extremely urgent that we call on Israel’s two closest allies namely the governments of the US and my native Germany to immediately stop giving Israel’s government a carte blanche and to condition support including first and foremost military support to an end of the atrocities,” said Mr Cohen.

The EU's top diplomat Josep Borrell said earlier this month that the US should stop exporting weapons to Israel but such calls have fallen on deaf ears.

The Dutch government also recently appealed a decision by a Dutch court ordering it to stop exporting F-35 parts to Israel following a lawsuit filed by NGOs including Oxfam.

NGOs also criticised what they described as US “weaponisation” of its vote at the UN Security Council to block calls for a ceasefire in Gaza.

An Arab-backed resolution drafted by Algeria received 13 votes in favour, an abstention from Britain and the US veto on Tuesday.

US President Joe Biden “has repeatedly mentioned concern over the many lives lost in Gaza”, said Ms Guevara Rosas.

“But unfortunately we don't see any action. On the contrary, again, [the US] are weaponising their veto power at the Security Council to block any call for a ceasefire. Their words are not matching their actions.”

Updated: February 21, 2024, 2:21 PM