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Aid groups warn they face looting, danger in Gaza after Israeli raid

1 week ago 14

Humanitarian groups said they were struggling to deliver aid in Gaza amid looting of their vehicles and the disruption caused by Israeli military operations in the Strip, including a surprise raid in the Nuseirat refugee camp Saturday that led to the rescue of four hostages but which Palestinians said killed hundreds of people.

The World Food Program said Sunday that it had paused operations on a U.S.-backed pier in Gaza after the raid in Nuseirat in central Gaza and would not resume until after the United Nations conducted a security assessment. “We are reassessing the safety aspects of where we should be and what this means for us,” WFP chief Cindy McCain said in an interview with The Washington Post. “It made things a lot more dangerous. … The crowd is already hungry. They’re desperate. And then to have something like this occur?”

A Pentagon spokesman, Maj. Gen. Patrick Ryder, repeated denials from the U.S. military Monday that it had anything to do with Saturday’s Israeli operation. U.S. commanders intend to continue delivering humanitarian aid over the pier on Gaza’s coastline as sea states allow, he said.

The pier was reattached to the coastline Friday after a mishap in which heavy seas cost at least $22 million in damage to the structure. More than a million pounds of aid flowed over it Saturday, but operations were curtailed again Sunday and Monday because of further heavy sea conditions, Ryder said.

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McCain said that WFP operations had already been “very hard” in Rafah, where Israeli military operations over recent weeks had led to the “intermittent closing” of routes, which caused delays that enabled looting by Palestinians. “[WFP trucks] are looted because it’s so difficult to get along,” McCain said.

Getting aid into Gaza “remains very difficult,” said Scott Anderson, deputy director of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which aids Palestinians. Once inside the territory, distribution is also chaotic, he told The Post. There are thefts during the trip from the Kerem Shalom crossing to the warehouses, he said.

While aid groups are generally able to reach central Gaza, where much of the population displaced from Rafah is now living, the number of people there makes transport difficult. “Everybody is so densely packed that it’s hard to move,” he said.

UNRWA is “focused on trying to get aid in and taking care of people in our shelters,” which house roughly half the displaced population, he said. There is also a push to start some schooling for children in shelters, even if it is limited to an hour per day — “just something to give the kids a sense of routine and engage their minds again.”

The concerns about aid came as Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with leaders on Monday to discuss the U.S.-backed cease-fire proposal, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem and Egyptian President Abdel Fatah El-Sisi in Cairo. Speaking with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, Blinken “commended Israel’s readiness to conclude a deal and affirmed that the onus is on Hamas to accept,” according to a readout.

After Israel, Blinken will visit Jordan and Qatar, where he will have to address the ire of Arab nations regarding the operation on Saturday during which Israeli troops rescued four hostages in Gaza and caused the deaths of at least 274 Palestinians.

The visit to Israel comes amid upheaval within the government. Benny Gantz’s departure Sunday from the war cabinet threatens Netanyahu’s hold on power and adds to domestic political pressure on him to accept a cease-fire proposal that seeks to bring back hostages. There are 120 hostages still inside the Gaza Strip, though at least a third are believed to be dead, according to the Israeli military.

In Israel, thousands of protesters have been taking to the streets for weeks, led by hostages’ families and supporters who fear time is running out for their loved ones who remain in Gaza. One protest group called on Blinken and President Biden to “seal the deal,” saying Netanyahu is undermining the arrangement.

In a broadcast Sunday night, Gantz lambasted Netanyahu for his “empty promises” of “total victory,” instead of focusing on a hostage deal, working on a day-after plan for Gaza and taking action against Lebanon’s Hezbollah in the north.

Netanyahu posted a response on X as Gantz was still speaking, warning of a fractured government. “Israel is in an existential war on several fronts,” he wrote. “Benny, this is not the time to abandon the war — this is the time to join forces.”

The U.N. Security Council approved, in a 14-0 vote, a U.S.-sponsored resolution to support the American-backed cease-fire plan for Gaza. Russia abstained. It throws council support behind a three-phase proposal beginning with a six-week cease-fire that would include the release of all women, children, elderly and wounded hostages; and Israeli force withdrawal from populated areas. It aims to later lead into a permanent cessation of violence, complete troop withdrawal, the return of all hostages and steps toward a two-state solution. Hamas in a statement welcomed what was included in the U.N. resolution regarding a “permanent cease-fire,” and said it was ready to cooperate with mediators.

The Israeli police posted helmet-camera footage of what it said was the military rescue of three hostages from Gaza on Saturday. The footage shows several armed soldiers storming a residence, shooting guns and using flashlights to locate three hostages huddled in a dimly lit room.

The director general of Israel’s Foreign Ministry held a “reprimand conversation” with the Slovenian ambassador to Israel on Monday, according to Israeli spokesperson Oren Marmorstein. The conversation came after Slovenia’s recognition of a Palestinian state, which Marmorstein said Israeli officials consider to be a “warped decision” that “does not promote peace.”

Al Jazeera denied the Israeli Defense Ministry’s claim that a Palestinian journalist involved in the hostage-taking had worked for the channel. It said Abdullah al-Jamal, in whose home three hostages were found, had never worked for Al Jazeera and had only contributed to an op-ed in 2019. Its statement said that these “allegations are a continuation of the process of slander and misinformation aimed at harming Al Jazeera’s reputation, professionalism, and independence.”

At least ​​37,124 people have been killed and 84,712 injured in Gaza since the war started, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between civilians and combatants but says the majority of the dead are women and children. Israel estimates that about 1,200 people were killed in Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack, including more than 300 soldiers, and it says 287 soldiers have been killed since the launch of its military operations in Gaza.

correction

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the Israeli raid on the Nuseirat refugee camp occurred Friday evening. The raid occurred Saturday. The article has been corrected.

John Hudson and Lior Soroka contributed to this report.

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