US humanitarian envoy negotiates road for sustained aid into Gaza

David Satterfield was appointed on Monday ahead of an anticipated Israeli ground invasion on Gaza

Trucks of a humanitarian aid convoy have been waiting outside the border gate between Egypt and Gaza for days. EPA
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The US State Department said the newly appointed special envoy for Middle East humanitarian issues, David Satterfield, met Israeli and Egyptian officials on Thursday to develop a means to get more humanitarian aid into Gaza.

US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said the Israeli government is concerned that aid coming through Egypt's border with Gaza could be diverted to Hamas. It is a concern the US shares.

"We want to see sustained humanitarian assistance going into Gaza for the benefit of innocent civilians," Mr Miller told reporters.

"The exact discussions about how we implement that is exactly what Ambassador Satterfield is engaged in right now."

Twenty lorries are expected to enter Gaza through the Rafah border crossing with Egypt on Friday, nearly two weeks into the Israel-Gaza war.

The conflict has led to thousands of deaths among Israelis and Palestinians, and the destruction of large parts of the Gaza Strip.

More than 100 lorries carrying critical aid for Palestinians are waiting by the border with Egypt for a diplomatic breakthrough.

On October 7, Hamas gunmen launched a surprise attack on parts of southern Israel, killing about 1,400 people and taking about 200 hostage.

Israel responded by bombarding the tiny enclave with air strikes, which have so far killed 3,875 Palestinians, and flattened entire neighbourhoods.

Israel has told residents of the northern Gaza Strip – about 1.1 million people – to flee to the south, before an anticipated ground invasion aimed at destroying Hamas.

Israel also cut off access to water, food, electricity and medicine, drawing concerns from the UN of a humanitarian disaster.

Before Israel tightened its siege, Gaza was already on the brink of disaster. Israel blockaded the territory by land, air and sea since 2007, when Hamas took over.

"The people with guns inside Gaza, Hamas, could try to divert this assistance and keep it from getting to the civilians who it is intended for," Mr Miller said.

"We think that's a legitimate concern.

"We're going to be watching very carefully how it's delivered, because we want to be sensitive to those concerns which we share.

"We are working on the mechanisms for the delivery of this aid."

US President Joe Biden made a last-minute trip to Israel on Wednesday, where he met Israeli leaders to negotiate the entry of humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip, which is home to 2.3 million Palestinians.

Mr Biden also reaffirmed the US's commitment to Israel's security, and Israel's right to defend itself.

Updated: October 19, 2023, 8:21 PM