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What is the situation with the humanitarian aid in Gaza?

After the first Arab-Israeli war of 1948-1949, Gaza and the West Bank were eventually occupied by Egypt and Jordan respectively until 1967, when Israel defeated the Arab League (that also included Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen). After the Six Days war of 1967, Israel has controlled militarily the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, acting therefore as an occupation force.

Since then, several Palestinian organizations have emerged to seek the creation of a Palestinian state (that has never existed so far), leading to violent conflicts between Israel and the Arab world. But, in 1993, the Oslo Accords (signed in Washington D. C and Cairo) between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), led by Yasser Arafat, set up a peace process. These agreements resulted in both the recognition of Israel by the PLO and the recognition by Israel of the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people and as a partner in bilateral negotiations.

The Oslo Accords did not create a definite Palestinian state, as Israel still controlled Gaza and the West Bank militarily, and issues like Israeli settlements, Palestinian return to Israel, and borders were unsettled. The recognition of Israel was opposed by a large part of the Palestinian population, that resulted in many terrorist attacks led by Hamas, which was created in 1987 as an opposition to the PLO. The Oslo Accords were also rejected by many extreme-right Zionist organizations in Israel and the US, which resulted also in massacres against the Palestinian population in Gaza and the West Bank by Israeli settlers, and even the assassination of then Prime Minister of Israel, Yitzhak Rabin in Tel Aviv by an Israeli right-wing extremist.

Later on, in 2007, Hamas took over the Gaza Strip after winning a civil war against Fatah, the successor of the PLO. Hamas does not recognize Israel’s right to exist on its charter and has a mission to exterminate all the Jews. This violent change of government in Gaza, and the hostile stance of Hamas, led Israel and Egypt to enforce heavy restrictions on the entry/exit of products and persons from Gaza.

Today, the Gaza population amounts to 2.2 million people, of which 45% are under 18 years old. Between 2007 and 2023, the population of Gaza increased by 60%, mostly because of a high fertility rate, but unemployment has been around 50%, and 90% of the population depended on food aid provided by the international community (UN programs plus donations from singular countries).

With D. Trump, Israel signed several agreements to normalize diplomatic relations with many Arab countries. At the same time, Netanyahu hardened Israel's rhetoric about the possibility of recognizing a Palestinian state. With this background, Hamas launched the October 7 attacks in which it massacred around 1200 Jews in Israel, and kidnapped around 250 of them into Gaza.

Israel responded by enforcing a total blockade towards Gaza in the first days of the war, but started to allow the entrance of around 20 trucks of food and medicines per day during the last weeks of October. It is estimated that around 500 trucks of aid are needed every day to fulfill the basic needs of 2.2 million people living in Gaza.

As truce talks between Hamas and Israel emerged in early November, Israel allowed around 120 trucks per day of aid. Israel claims that in order to ensure that the aid will not reach Hamas, and planning the logistical difficulties of distribute it inside Gaza, many security checks need to be done before more trucks can be let in. The majority of these trucks are entering from Israel, whereas a minority of them are from Egypt. Also, Hamas has promised that for every 1000 boxes of medication and food given to the Palestinians in Gaza, 1 box would be given to the Israeli hostages.

Despite that in late January 2024 many western countries temporarily stopped the aid given to the United Nations Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA) in Gaza after it was discovered that a dozen of its employees participated in the October 7 massacres in Israel, this didn’t affect the number of trucks entering Gaza. This is because the aid that was suspended regarded payments in the medium term, and many countries have resumed the payments given to the UNRWA.

Regarding the tragedy that occurred last week, when around 180 people in north Gaza died when trying to receive aid delivered by 30 trucks, the version of Israel differs radically from the version of the Palestinians:

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) claims that around 1000 desperate people gathered violently around the aid trucks and that Israeli soldiers fired several warning shots to disperse the crowd. Then, this created panic among the crowd, which started to move quickly, and many people died crushed in a stampede.

On the other hand, many Palestinians and western journalists confirm that most of the 180 deaths had bullet wounds as Israeli snipers shot into the crowd when it approached the trucks.

This event illustrates the humanitarian tragedy of the war, in which, according to Hamas, 30,000 Palestinians have died, including 17,000 women and children. These figures are contested by Israel, but are considered reliable by the international community.

Finally, it shows also how important the war on information can be for all the parties involved in the conflict.


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