Israel says it will ‘flood’ Gaza with aid as pressure mounts to do more 

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - TEL AVIV, March 14 — Israel will try to “flood” the Gaza Strip with humanitarian aid from a variety of entry points, the main military spokesman said yesterday as international pressure mounted to address the growing problem of hunger in the besieged enclave.

After more than five months of war in Gaza, aid agencies have warned that the area’s 2.3 million population face a growing risk of famine unless food supplies are stepped up sharply and they have accused Israel of not doing enough to ensure sufficient aid gets through.

Israel says it has placed no limits on the amount of aid that it will allow in to Gaza, and blames failures by the aid agencies for delays but it has faced mounting demands even from its closest allies to do more.

“We are trying to flood the area, to flood it with humanitarian aid,” military spokesperson, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari told a group of foreign reporters.

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Earlier on Wednesday, the military announced that six aid trucks with supplies from the World Food Organisation had entered the northern part of the Gaza Strip, where the hunger crisis has been especially acute, through a crossing in the security fence known as the 96th gate.

More such convoys would follow as well as deliveries from other entry points, complemented by air drops and seaborne aid cargoes, Hagari said.

“We are learning and improving and doing different changes so as not to create a routine but to create a diversity of ways that we can enter,” he said.

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Hagari acknowledged, however, that getting supplies into the enclave was only one part of the problem and more needed to be done to solve the problem of how to distribute it fairly and efficiently to desperately needy people.

“The problem inside Gaza is the distribution problem,” he said.

The challenges in delivering and distributing aid safely were given stark illustration earlier this month when a convoy of aid trucks was surrounded by thousands of people trying to get supplies and troops opened fire.

Scores of people were killed in the incident although there were sharply differing accounts from Palestinian health authorities, which said most of those killed were shot dead and Israel saying most were trampled to death or run over by trucks in the panic.

Most aid that comes into Gaza is cleared by Israel at Kerem Shalom, a customs station at the border point between Egypt, Israel and Gaza and then brought in through the southern city of Rafah, the main passenger crossing point between Egypt and Gaza.

But as aid agencies have struggled to distribute aid, that has become increasingly problematic and there have been growing demands from world powers including the United States and the European Union for more crossing points to be opened up.

The United States has already conducted emergency air drops of food into Gaza and is working on opening up a maritime corridor into the enclave.

A ship carrying aid is currently approaching Gaza in a pilot trial of maritime delivery, that is expected to be followed up by a US military effort to set up a dock on Gaza’s coast that will enable distribution of up to two million meals a day. — Reuters

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