Israel's Pledge to Guard an Aid Route into Gaza Falls Flat as Lawlessness Blocks Distribution

A truck carries humanitarian aid across Trident Pier, a temporary pier to deliver aid, off the Gaza Strip, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas, near the Gaza coast, May 19, 2024. US Army Central/Handout via REUTERS
A truck carries humanitarian aid across Trident Pier, a temporary pier to deliver aid, off the Gaza Strip, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas, near the Gaza coast, May 19, 2024. US Army Central/Handout via REUTERS
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Israel's Pledge to Guard an Aid Route into Gaza Falls Flat as Lawlessness Blocks Distribution

A truck carries humanitarian aid across Trident Pier, a temporary pier to deliver aid, off the Gaza Strip, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas, near the Gaza coast, May 19, 2024. US Army Central/Handout via REUTERS
A truck carries humanitarian aid across Trident Pier, a temporary pier to deliver aid, off the Gaza Strip, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas, near the Gaza coast, May 19, 2024. US Army Central/Handout via REUTERS

The Israeli military said Sunday that it was establishing a new safe corridor to deliver aid into southern Gaza. But days later, this self-declared “tactical pause” has brought little relief to desperate Palestinians.
The United Nations and international aid organizations say a breakdown in law and order has made the aid route unusable, The Associated Press reported.
With thousands of truckloads of aid piled up, groups of armed men are regularly blocking convoys, holding drivers at gunpoint and rifling through their cargo, according to a UN official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the media on the issue.
The lawlessness is a major obstacle to aid distribution to southern and central Gaza — where an estimated 1.3 million Palestinians displaced from Rafah, or more than half of Gaza’s entire population, are now sheltering in tent camps and cramped apartments without adequate food, water, or medical supplies.
Here is a closer look at the security challenges facing the UN and aid organizations.
Israel's ‘tactical pause’ stymied Israel said Sunday it would observe daily pauses in combat along a route stretching from Kerem Shalom — the strip’s only operational aid crossing in the south — to the nearby city of Khan Younis. Before the pause, aid organizations had reported that the need to coordinate trucks’ movement with the Israelis in an active combat zone was slowing aid distribution.
The head of the UN’s World Food Program said Thursday that the pause has made “no difference at all” in aid distribution efforts. “We haven’t been able to get in,” said Cindy McCain in an interview with Al-Monitor. “We’ve had to reroute some of our trucks. They’ve been looted. As you know, we’ve been shot at and we’ve been rocketed.”
The UN official familiar with the aid effort said that there has been no sign of Israeli activity along the route. The UN tried to send a convoy of 60 trucks down the road Tuesday to pick up aid at Kerem Shalom. But 35 of the trucks were intercepted by armed men, the official said.
In recent days, the groups have moved closer to the crossing and set up roadblocks to halt trucks loaded with supplies, the UN official said. They have searched the pallets for smuggled cigarettes, a rare luxury in a territory where a single smoke can go for $25.
The surge in lawlessness is a result of growing desperation in Gaza and the power vacuum left by Hamas’s waning power over the territory, said Mkhaimar Abusada, an associate professor of political science at Al-Azhar University in Gaza who is now in Cairo.
With the enclave's police force targeted by Israel, he said, crime has reemerged as an untreated issue in Gaza.
“After Hamas came to power, one of the things that they brought under their control was the lawlessness of the so-called big clans,” said Abusada. “Now, that’s left for the Palestinians on their own to deal with it. So once again, we are seeing shootings between families, there are thefts, all the bad things are happening.”
UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, used to deploy local Palestinian police to escort aid convoys, but many refused to continue serving after airstrikes killed at least eight police officers in Rafah, the agency said.
Israel says the police are legitimate targets because they are controlled by Hamas.
Is any aid still getting into Gaza? The situation has largely paralyzed aid distribution to the south — particularly since Gaza’s nearby Rafah crossing was closed when Israel invaded the city early last month.
The UN official said that 25 trucks of flour used the route Tuesday. Some private commercial trucks also got through — many of which used armed security to deter groups seeking to seize their cargo. An AP reporter stationed along the road Monday saw at least eight trucks pass by, armed security guards riding on top.
Before Israel’s offensive into the city of Rafah, hundreds of fuel trucks routinely entered the area.
The UN has now begun rerouting some fuel trucks through northern Gaza. Farhan Haq, a UN spokesman, said five fuel trucks entered Gaza Wednesday. The UN humanitarian office reported that these were the first fuel deliveries since early June and supplies remain scarce.
Aid groups say only a ceasefire and a reopening of the Rafah crossing could significantly increase aid flow to the area.
The military body in charge of coordinating humanitarian aid efforts, COGAT, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Security concerns also afflict aid from the US pier project. The US installed a pier off Gaza’s coast last month, aiming to provide an additional route for aid to enter Gaza. But the ambitious project has suffered repeated logistical and security setbacks.
Cyprus and US officials said the pier was up and running again Thursday after being detached for a second time last week because of rough seas. COGAT said Thursday there were “hundreds of aid pallets awaiting collection and distribution by the UN aid agencies.”
But there, too, security concerns are hindering distribution of aid.
The UN suspended its cooperation with the pier on June 9 – a day after rumors swirled that the Israeli military had used the area in a hostage rescue operation that left over 270 Palestinians dead. Photos of the operation showed an Israeli military helicopter in what appeared to be the vicinity of the pier.
Both Israel and the US deny the pier was used in the operation. But the perception that the pier was used for military purposes could endanger humanitarian workers, and threaten humanitarian groups’ principles of neutrality, the UN says.
Aid workers said they are working with the Israelis to find a solution, but that the security burden falls squarely on Israel’s shoulders.
Officials from the UN and other humanitarian organizations, including Samantha Power, head of the US Agency for International Development, met with Israel’s military chief and COGAT officials this week to seek solutions.
USAID said afterward that the meeting ended with promises of specific actions, but gave no details.



Sudan's RSF Agrees with UN on Steps to Ease Aid Delivery

Sudanese farmers plow a field on the outskirts of Sudan's eastern city of Gedaref on July 18, 2024. (Photo by AFP)
Sudanese farmers plow a field on the outskirts of Sudan's eastern city of Gedaref on July 18, 2024. (Photo by AFP)
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Sudan's RSF Agrees with UN on Steps to Ease Aid Delivery

Sudanese farmers plow a field on the outskirts of Sudan's eastern city of Gedaref on July 18, 2024. (Photo by AFP)
Sudanese farmers plow a field on the outskirts of Sudan's eastern city of Gedaref on July 18, 2024. (Photo by AFP)

Sudan's Rapid Support Forces agreed with the United Nations on some steps to ease aid delivery in areas under its control, a member of the RSF told Reuters on Thursday.

The Sudanese army has not reached any understandings on aid delivers with the RSF, he added. It is unclear if these steps could be implemented without the army's participation.

Meanwhile, a key supply route into Sudan's Darfur region, deemed at risk of famine by a global monitor, has been cut off due to heavy rains, a World Food Program official told Reuters on Thursday.
The UN agency has described Sudan as the world's biggest hunger crisis, with the western Darfur region most at risk as Sudan's 15-month civil war that has displaced millions and sparked ethnic violence grinds on.
WFP's Country Director Eddie Rowe said thousands of tons of aid are stranded at the Tina crossing on the Chad border, prompting the body to reopen talks with the army-aligned government to open an alternative, all-weather crossing further south called Adre.
"You have these huge rivers. As I speak now, our convoy, which is supposed to move over 2000 metric tons is stranded," he told Reuters from Port Sudan. Asked on the status of the talks that resumed this week, he said: "It's 50/50.”
WFP is now seeking clearances to move a large 70-truck convoy via a little-used, over 1000 kilometer route from Port Sudan to Darfur which Rowe said will involve crossing the battle lines of both the Sudan Armed Forces, the Rapid Support Forces and various militias.
He added that this mostly desert route has worked in the past but outside of the rainy season and that the last journey took weeks and was "fraught with a lot of challenges.”
In a separate interview, Mona Rishmawi, a member of the UN Fact-Finding Mission on Sudan, told Reuters that she had met Darfur refugees in Chad who told her stories of escaping with virtually no water and eating grass along the route. "There's no doubt that people are starving," she said.