Israel says UN should organise more convoys for north Gaza

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - KEREM SHALOM (Israel), March 15 — Israel yesterday defended its policies on admitting trucks into Gaza, calling on the United Nations to send more convoys of aid to the war-ravaged territory.

“If the UN wants to see more aid in north Gaza, it should coordinate more convoys,” said Elad Goren, head of the civil department at Cogat, a defence ministry body governing civilian affairs in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Goren also said 99 percent of aid trucks sent to Gaza were “approved”, pushing back on reports by the UN and NGOs that cumbersome Israeli inspections are blocking food and other essentials.

“The trucks that are rejected are sent back for repackaging because they contain... materials that Hamas can use for their terrorist activities,” he told a press conference at the inspection terminal at the Kerem Shalom border crossing.

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“The issue is not with our inspection, but with the distribution capabilities of the international organisations.”

Asked about Goren’s claims, Juliette Touma, spokeswoman for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), told AFP that “the issue is with the Israeli authorities not allowing enough aid in or commercial supplies”.

Touma, whose agency coordinates much of the aid distribution inside Gaza, said Israeli authorities control the number of trucks that go in and the inspection process.

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Aid workers say slow inspections and opaque rules on which items are allowed to enter Gaza have held up the arrival of aid in the Hamas-run territory, where the health ministry has reported 27 deaths from malnutrition and dehydration in recent weeks, most of them children.

Access to the north, where needs are greatest, is further complicated by Israeli checkpoints, they say.

Speaking from a parking lot where aid trucks are inspected, Goren pointed to the Gaza side and said aid was piling up there, although reporters were not given access to the Palestinian side to verify his claims.

Humanitarian aid entering Gaza by land mostly comes from Egypt, is inspected at the Kerem Shalom or Nitzana checkpoints, then unloaded in Gaza so Palestinian trucks can distribute it.

Delays and obstacles at land crossings have prompted countries to pursue other options for aid delivery, including airdrops and a maritime route from Cyprus.

Goren on Thursday praised the diversification of avenues to bring aid into Gaza and said his agency had facilitated more than 35 airdrops in the north.

He also said that, earlier this week, six trucks were able to enter through a new crossing two kilometres south of Gaza City, known as Gate 96.

The first ship bringing aid to Gaza from Cyprus departed this week.

Aid groups nonetheless stress that overland delivery is far more efficient than air and sea alternatives. — AFP

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