‘Drop in the ocean’: UN-backed aid could soon enter Gaza from Egypt, but only a trickle for now
CAIRO (AP) — United States President Joe Biden says he struck a deal with his Egyptian counterpart to allow a first run of 20 trucks carrying humanitarian aid to enter Gaza, which Israel sealed off after the Hamas attack on October 7.
Israel says it’s now ready to honor Biden’s request to let in limited humanitarian aid.
The Egyptian and Palestinian Red Crescent Societies and the United Nations are expected to help oversee the operation, in part to ensure the supplies from the convoy through the Rafah Crossing on Egypt’s border with Gaza reaches civilians — not combatants.
Official at the United Nations health agency say they’re “praying” the first tranche will go in on Friday.
Here’s a look at what could be expected to go in, and how.
WHAT THE TRUCKS WILL CARRY
The United Nations and its various agencies — the World Health Organization, the World Food Program, and children’s agency UNICEF among them — along with partners like Red Cross and Red Crescent groups are accustomed to moving needed goods to troubled areas.
They often move in what’s called an “inter-agency convoy,” meaning a hodgepodge of aid groups.
At a news briefing Thursday, WHO’s emergencies chief, Dr. Michael Ryan, waved a paper in the air with a long list of medical supplies that his agency hopes to get into Gaza with five truckloads that it has at the ready: amputation kits, intubation kits, pneumothorax kits for people with punctured lungs, wound dressings, anesthetics and painkiller.
WFP spokesman Martin Rentsch said some 951 metric tons (1000 tons) of food were at the border or on their way there, enough to feed nearly a half-million people for a week. He said high-energy biscuits and canned foods that don’t need to be cooked were often deployed in such urgent situations.
Jan Egeland, head of the Norwegian Refugee Council aid group, said: “Hamas doesn’t need baby food and bottled water – we are talking about saving children, and pregnant women and families.”
HOW THE AID WILL BE DISTRIBUTED
The deal brokered between Egypt and Israel would involve UN observers inspecting aid trucks before they enter Gaza, and the hoisting of UN flags on both sides of the Rafah crossing to ward off any Israeli airstrikes, an Egyptian official and a European diplomat told The Associated Press.
They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to brief media.
Egyptian and Israeli officials were still negotiating about whether fuel — needed to run hospital generators and water desalination plants, among other things — would be allowed in, the Egyptian official said. Israel wants to make sure Hamas doesn’t seize any of the aid, especially fuel.
Once inside Gaza, the convoy will need to navigate gingerly through bombed-out areas or pock-marked roads before reaching distribution points — like hospitals, some of which have already been hit by military firepower during the conflict.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, in its latest update, estimated about 3,000 metric tons (3300 tons) of goods were in Egypt just across the border from Gaza, awaiting entry. An OCHA spokeswoman declined to comment on Thursday about preparations for the convoy.