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The Israel-Hamas War: Operation Iron Sword
The Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza

(October 7, 2023 - Present)
By Mitchell Bard

Civilians Flee
Egypt Under Pressure to Open Border
Misreporting Israeli Airstrike
Israel Draws Fire for Civilian Deaths
U.S. Pressures Israel to Allow More Aid
Distribution Issues
Escape is Possible for a Price
Flooding Gaza with Aid

Hamas did not warn Palestinians in Gaza of its intention to attack Israel on October 7, 2023. Knowing Israel would retaliate, Palestinians were used as shields. Hamas guaranteed civilians would be killed by firing rockets from civilian areas and hiding among them.

As Israel launched airstrikes against Hamas targets in Gaza, warnings were issued for civilians to evacuate targeted areas. Despite the risk of giving terrorists the chance to flee, a forewarning is also given before bombing buildings where non-combatants live. Palestinians also receive phone messages. The IDF’s Arab-language channels shared videos on social media providing Gazans instructions on where to go to be safe.

Within the first few days of the war, nearly 200,000 Gazans had fled. As in the past, many civilians found shelter in UNRWA schools.

Israel dropped leaflets on October 13, telling all civilians to move south, but Hamas told them to stay in their homes. Many still tried to reach the southern border with Egypt. Still, the crossing was closed by the Egyptians, who did not want to be responsible for hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees and the possibility of Hamas infiltrators who are affiliated with the regime’s greatest enemy – the Muslim Brotherhood.

Israel cut off food, fuel, electricity, and water as part of its siege. Under pressure from the U.S., however, Israel agreed on October 16 to allow trucks carrying water and medicine to enter Gaza through Egypt. The decision to prohibit fuel prevented Hamas from shifting its allocation from humanitarian purposes to operating generators within its tunnels.

Egypt Under Pressure to Open Border

The United States was reportedly working with Qatar to convince the Egyptians to open the border but seemed primarily concerned with providing passage to the 500-600 American passport holders who were advised to move toward the Rafah border crossing. Egypt did not open the crossing; instead, it placed concrete slabs to block it.

Alqahera News reported on October 14, quoting Egyptian sources, “Egyptian authorities have rejected the idea of using the Rafah crossing only for foreigners. They added, ‘The Egyptian position is clear,’ and that it requires the facilitation of the entry and passage of aid to the Gaza Strip.”

Meanwhile, Israel continued to launch waves of airstrikes in what was expected to be the prelude to a ground operation.

Egypt continued to be pressured to open the crossing, allowing Gazans to leave and supplies to come in.

As in past conflicts in Gaza, the media narrative began to shift from focusing on the murder of Israelis to the conditions in Gaza. After Israel announced that civilians in the north would have 24 hours to move south of Gaza City, reports highlighted the difficulty of more than one million people moving in such a short period. Hospitals, in particular, were said to have no way to transport patients. The commentary neglected to mention that the distance needed to reach safety was usually less than five miles.

The 24-hour deadline allowed civilians to leave the area before an expected ground operation. Israel let the deadline slip when it became clear the area would not be cleared in time.

As images of wounded and dead Palestinians began to increase, U.S. officials increasingly emphasized that while Israel had the right to defend itself, the IDF must adhere to the laws of war.

Despite repeated airstrikes by Israel, Hamas managed to continue launching rockets, setting off alerts in Tel Aviv, where Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken were forced to take shelter, and in Jerusalem during a Knesset session. The communities near the Gaza border that had been attacked were evacuated.

Israel was attracting more criticism over its airstrikes in what appeared to be civilian areas. “You may have seen footage on TV or on social media, and you may see a building standing and then flashes,, and then the building collapses, and you say to yourself, well, that looks very much like a civilian building,” explained IDF Spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus. “What I want to tell you is that, no, that isn’t a civilian building. It is a legitimate military target. And  why is that? Because Hamas uses all, locates all of their offices, headquarters, their research and development and all of their other military assets, If it’s above ground, they locate themselves in civilian buildings.”

Misreporting Israeli Airstrike

On October 17, the Al-Ahli Hospital was reportedly hit by a rocket. Hamas and the media immediately blamed Israel. Riots broke out in Ramallah and elsewhere around the region. The  IDF was slow to respond because it wanted to be sure it had the correct information on the cause of the blast. While waiting for the IDF, the media showed gruesome pictures from the hospital and repeated Hamas propaganda that more than 400 people were killed, which inflamed the situation.

The IDF later announced that it had determined the hospital had been hit by a rocket launched by Palestinian Islamic Jihad that misfired. The IDF also released a video of the rocket failure and a recording it intercepted that indicated Hamas knew PIJ was responsible. The number of casualties was also believed to be 100-300.

While the media throughout the conflict has unquestioningly accepted Hamas’s claims and statistics provided by its Health Ministry, journalists doubted the veracity of Israel’s explanation. When he arrived in Israel the following day, after receiving U.S. and Israeli intelligence, President Biden exonerated Israel, saying, “I’m deeply saddened and outraged by the explosion at the hospital in Gaza yesterday, and based on what I’ve seen, it appears as though it was done by the other team, not you.”

Canadian and French intelligence concurred.

It was not until November 26 that Human Rights Watch admitted Israel was not responsible: “The explosion that killed and injured many civilians at Al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza on October 17, 2023, resulted from an apparent rocket-propelled munition, such as those commonly used by Palestinian armed groups, that hit the hospital grounds.” Also, contrary to initial reports that said the hospital was it, HRW said the unidentified munition “hit a paved area inside the hospital compound, between a parking lot and a landscaped area.”

After almost two weeks of resistance, Egypt announced on October 19 that it would allow humanitarian aid to enter Gaza through the Rafah border crossing, but it did not. More than 100 trucks carrying supplies were held up at the border, waiting for it to be opened. The decision came after pressure from the United States. Though he had refused to meet with Biden after his visit to Israel, the president did speak by phone to President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi about opening the crossing from his plane.

While the opening had been a request of the international community and agreed to by the Israeli government, it upset the families of Israeli hostages. “The decision to allow humanitarian aid to the murderers of Gaza has caused great anger among the family members,” the Bring Them Home Now organization said in a statement. “We  remind you that children, babies, women, soldiers, men and the elderly—some of whom have serious health issues, are wounded … are being held underground like animals without any human conditions, and the government of Israel is treating the murderers to baklava and medicine.”

The Rafah crossing finally opened on October 21, and 35 trucks carrying humanitarian aid entered Gaza.

The same day, an international summit on the war opened in Cairo. It was attended by Jordan’s King Abdullah, Egyptian President Al-Sisi, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, British Foreign Minister James Cleverly, and UN Secretary-General Guterres. The summit focused on the humanitarian crisis, the release of hostages, the need for regional stability, and for Israel to respect international law in its military response. It concluded without agreement on a joint statement.

British Prime Minister later agreed to provide 20 million pounds ($24.4 million) of humanitarian support for Gaza.

Israel continued to warn civilians to move south and to evacuate areas targeted by its troops. Hamas, however, blocked access roads and shot at people to prevent them from leaving.

Israel Draws Fire for Civilian Deaths

Despite its efforts, Israel was bombarded with international criticism and blamed for the plight of civilians. Under pressure from the United States, Israel reopened pipes to supply water to the Strip and restored communication and the Internet after shutting it down for a day. “We  made it clear they had to be turned back on,” a U.S. official told the Washington Post. “The communications are back on. They need to stay back on.”

Meanwhile, Hamas has plenty of supplies and no intention of sharing them with the population. Officials told the New York Times that Hamas has hundreds of gallons of fuel and stockpiles of food, water, and medicine to allow the terrorists to fight for three to four months. Israel reported Hamas has more than 200,000 gallons of fuel for rockets and generators to provide air and electricity to its tunnels. The  IDF also released a recording of the commander of the West Jabaliya Brigade of Hamas speaking to the head of the Indonesian Hospital in Gaza and another Gazan that revealed how fuel from hospitals is stolen.

Foreign nationals also remain trapped in Gaza. Among them are an estimated 200 British citizens and 600 Americans. American officials said that Israel and Egypt were prepared to let foreigners leave, but Hamas has now turned them into additional hostages.

Humanitarian aid was ramping up by the end of October. U.S. officials said 45 trucks had entered on the 29th, and the goal was to increase the number to 100 daily. Israel said its security forces check all food and medicine deliveries before they enter. “All of the deliveries are designated for the civilian population—if it comes to light that they are being taken by Hamas, they will stop,” the Prime Minister’s office said.

The Times of Israel said it was told, “The trucks first enter Egypt where they undergo an initial round of inspections. Th y then are driven into Israel through the Nitzana crossing, where they are inspected by Israel’s COGAT military liaison before being sent back to Egypt and driven into Gaza through the Rafah crossing.”

Inspectors found that one aid truck had oxygen concentrators for aerating Hamas tunnels hidden among boxes of cookies. That truck was prevented from entering Gaza.

On the 31st, Egypt finally consented to allow 81 wounded Gazans to enter Egypt for treatment. Some foreign nationals were also allowed through Rafah on November 1. In the following days, the numbers increased.

Israel agreed to open a corridor for three hours on November 4 to allow civilians to move from the north of Gaza to the safe zone in the south. Hamas fired mortars toward the road to interfere with the evacuation. Operations were suspended for several hours on the following days to facilitate the migration.

Click on the photo to enlarge

In one of the many messages sent to Gazans, the IDF said (translated from Arabic):

O residents of Gaza, join the many who are heading to the south of Wadi Gaza at this hour!
I would like to inform you that although Hamas continues to undermine the ongoing humanitarian efforts on your behalf and uses you as human shields, today the IDF will once again allow passage on the Salah al-Din Road between 10:00 AM and 14:00 PM. For your safety, take this next opportunity to move south beyond Wadi Gaza.
Many of you are doing this at this hour, as you can see in the attached photos that were taken a short while ago.
If you care about yourself and your loved ones, head south according to our instructions. Rest assured that Hamas leaders have already taken care of defending themselves.

As the conditions for civilians in Gaza continued to deteriorate, international calls for a ceasefire were growing. On November 9, French President Macron said, “We need a very rapid humanitarian pause, and we must work toward a ceasefire.”

IDF directions for Gazans to move south

The IDF said on November 10, it killed a Hamas terrorist who held thousands of Gazans hostage in the Rantisi Hospital, preventing their evacuation southwards.

After weeks of refusing to allow fuel into Gaza, Israel consented on November 15 to permit 23,000 liters to be transferred for UNRWA. Despite the objections of hostage families and some members of his coalition, Netanyahu agreed to allow fuel trucks to enter Gaza daily for UN use.

The IDF assisted in the evacuation of newborn babies from the Shifa Hospital who were to be transferred to Egypt for medical treatment.

UNRWA said on November 20 that approximately 1.7 million Gazans had been displaced.

As per the agreement for freeing hostages, Israel allowed a convoy of trucks into Gaza after the ceasefire went into effect on November 24. Israel agreed to allow at least 200 trucks of humanitarian aid for every day the truce held. Still, Biden administration officials told the Times of Israel that the number would unlikely be reached because the IDF lacked the necessary delivery capacity. To compensate, Israel was being pressured to open a second crossing into Gaza. Biden proved wrong, and the required aid was delivered.

While stories had circulated that Gaza’s waste treatment had failed, a Haaretz reporter verified it was working.

U.S. Pressures Israel to Allow More Aid

As Israel pressed its campaign into the south, civilians were given instructions to move to safe areas. The United States continued to put pressure on the Israeli government to avoid civilian casualties and allow more aid into the Strip. Despite reports of hoarding and stealing of supplies, Israel complied. This included an agreement to provide daily deliveries of fuel, which Israel has resisted because it believes Hamas prevents it from reaching its intended destinations. Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer told the cabinet that increasing fuel supplies was “critical” to ensure the administration’s continued support from Washington.

The Biden administration also wanted Israel to open the Kerem Shalom crossing for screening humanitarian supplies to speed up their delivery. On December 8, Israel agreed to do so.

The crisis could be alleviated by allowing Gazans into Egypt, where there would be no restrictions on humanitarian assistance. Egypt warned the U.S. and Israel it would not allow refugees into the Sinai Peninsula and said that its relationship with Israel would “rupture.”

Meanwhile, Gazans continued to tell Israeli investigators about Hamas interference in aid distribution. “I work at the American organization called WKSA [The American World Kitchen], when I was preparing a dish, some of [Hamas] came. They tried to steal food from me but I prevented them. They steal from the warehouses of UNRWA,” one civilian stated.

As of January 1, 2024, some 300 American citizens were believed trapped inside Gaza. A  U.S. official confirmed on January 3 that a secret operation involving Israel and others rescued the mother and American uncle of a U.S. service member who had been pinned down in a building surrounded by combatants.

Under continued U.S. pressure, Israel agreed to allow more aid deliveries. By mid-January, Israel was promising to allow 400 trucks carrying supplies to enter Gaza daily.

Israel also continued to issue warnings to civilians, advising them to leave areas the IDF planned to strike. In the first 100 days of the war, the IDF made some 79,000 phone calls, dropped 7.2 million leaflets, and sent 13.7 million texts and 15 million recorded calls to encourage Gazans to evacuate danger zones.

Meanwhile, speaking at a conference of Islamic scholars, Hamas political bureau chief Ismail Haniyeh said in a speech, “There is verbal jihad, which is jihad by the tongue, but indeed, the time has come for jihad of the swords. This is the battle for Jerusalem and the al-Aqsa Mosque, and not the battle of the Palestinian people, or Gaza, or the people in Gaza.” He called for donations to support the cause, which he referred to as “financial jihad.”

Israel continued to report that Hamas was stealing aid. The IDF also targeted stolen aid trucks that Hamas uses as transportation for terrorists and ammunition.

On February 10, 2024, the IDF also discovered a tunnel underneath UNRWA headquarters that had a data center linked to the building’s electricity. The  IDF also recovered documents indicating that a Palestinian journalist working for Al Jazeera was a Hamas commander in its anti-tank missile unit.

While the Biden administration and international community were railing against Israel for impeding the supply of aid to Gazans, the Israelis noted that the UN was holding up trucks and that hundreds were waiting to be unloaded.

This is the content of 500 trucks of humanitarian aid on the Gazan side of Kerem Shalom,
after Israeli inspection, waiting to be picked up and distributed by UN organizations.

Israel continued to attract criticism for operating in Gaza hospitals. The  Western media continuously interviewed medical and aid workers who would not admit that terrorists were in the hospital even as the press reported firefights. 

The Israeli press, by contrast, covered the fighting in the hospitals and the discoveries of tunnels and weapons inside them. In mid-February, for example, the Jerusalem Post reported that Israeli forces found weapons, a vehicle stolen from Kibbutz Nir Oz that was used during the 10/7 massacre, and terrorists posing as medical staff inside the Nasser Hospital. They also found boxes of medication that were meant for hostages that were unopened and had the names of those they were intended for written on the boxes. The  IDF believed some hostages were held in the hospital and were searching for bodies. Before entering the hospital, the IDF had warned the staff of its intention to move in but did not force them or the patients to evacuate.

Medication for hostages found in Nasser Hospital

Distribution Issues

While international aid representatives have repeatedly told the media about shortages of supplies and people starving, sufficient aid is being transferred to Gaza, but it is not being distributed. In addition to Hamas stealing supplies, desperate Gazans have also taken to ambushing aid trucks and pilfering supplies. The New York Times said it was told by foreign diplomats that enough food was being supplied to prevent a famine but that it was not reaching the people who needed it.

After a month’s delay, Israel agreed to allow a shipment of flour from the U.S., capable of feeding 1.5 million people for five months, to be delivered by the World Food Program. The transfer had been blocked because of opposition to its distribution by UNRWA.

During the war, Israel discovered tunnels under UNRWA facilities, weapons in or near them, 30 UNRWA employees who participated in the 10/7 massacre, 440 were active in Hamas’s military wing, 2,000 others were operatives but not part of the military wing, and 7,000 had a first-degree relative in Hamas. Defenders of the agency dismissed early reports of a handful of Hamas members among the staff as a few bad apples out of a staff of 12,000. The analysis by Israeli intelligence, however, suggested that roughly 9,500 (80%) have a Hamas connection.

Hamas has interfered with the distribution and stolen some of the incoming aid. Some is resold on the black market. Consequently, much of the assistance was not reaching the public. Complicating the situation was the Hamas-run police force that was involved in supervising aid delivery. Because of their membership in Hamas, Israel did not treat them as civilians. The administration nevertheless asked Israel to stop targeting them.

While the UN and others were claiming Gazans were starving, celebrity chef José Andrés said his World Central Kitchen had served more than 32 million meals in Gaza, about 350,000 each day. The organization set up 65 kitchens in Gaza and planned to add at least 35 more, hoping to provide more than a million meals per day if more aid flows into Gaza.

After Israel opened the Kerem Shalom crossing, some Israelis began protesting and, for several days, blocked aid trucks from passing through the checkpoint. After the Biden administration demanded that the government ensure the safe passage of the aid, Israel declared the area near the crossing a closed military zone to keep protestors out. The protests then moved to other areas, including the port of Ashdod, where aid was being brought in by sea.

Due to the difficulty of getting aid to the places where it was needed, Jordan, Egypt, the UAE, Qatar, and France airdropped supplies in various areas in the Gaza Strip. Some of the drops went awry, with some falling in Israel and others landing in the sea. Gazans also robbed the supplies when they fell, impeding their distribution. In one case, five Gazans were killed by an airdrop. Still, this delivery method was being accelerated, and the United States also began airdrops. An initial report said a U.S. airdrop had killed the civilians, but the Pentagon denied it.

Biden reacted to the deteriorating conditions in Gaza for civilians. “In addition to expanding deliveries by land, as I said, we’re going to insist that Israel facilitate more trucks and more routes to get more and more people the help they need. No excuses.”

“Aid flowing to Gaza is nowhere near enough… Innocent lives are on the line and children’s lives are on the line,” Biden continued. “We should be getting hundreds of trucks in, not just several. And I won’t stand by, we won’t let up and we’re… trying to pull out every stop we can to get more assistance in.”

The lack of a distribution system, the desperation of Gazans, and the lack of protection for aid convoys led to a tragedy when Palestinians tried to loot supplies from trucks carrying food. The IDF said that Palestinian gunmen fired at the trucks, and panicked Gazans began to run. Some were trampled, others run over by the trucks as the drivers sped off. Some Palestinians ran toward Israeli troops who first fired warning shots, then targeted their legs before shooting some of those who did not stop. The Hamas-run Health Ministry claimed 118 people were killed and 700 wounded. 

In the wake of the disaster, the IDF said it would explore new options for delivering supplies. The problem is especially acute in the north as trucks were being looted before reaching the area.

Journalist Barak Ravid reported that the aid convoy disaster was a turning point for the administration. “U.S. officials saw it as an event that embodied all the Israeli policy failures in Gaza and were surprised about the indifference on the Israeli side about what happened,” according to Ravid.

Vice President Kamala Harris, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, and Blinken all were critical of the Israeli government and stressed the need for Israel to be more cooperative in allowing humanitarian aid into Gaza in meetings with Israeli Minister Benny Gantz in Washington. Gantz, a rival of the prime minister, also infuriated Netanyahu by making the trip without his authorization.

Separately, Harris said during a speech unrelated to the Middle East that “people in Gaza are starving” and called for “an immediate ceasefire” of at least six weeks as part of a hostage deal between Israel and Hamas. She also said, “What we are seeing every day in Gaza is devastating. We have seen reports of families eating leaves and animal feed, children dying from malnutrition and dehydration. Too many innocent Palestinians have been killed.” Echoing the president, she added, “No excuses. They must open new border crossings and not impose any unnecessary restrictions on the delivery of aid. They must ensure humanitarian convoys are not targeted and restore basic services and order in Gaza so more food, water and fuel can reach those in need.”

At the beginning of March, Israel sent 50 incubators to hospitals in Gaza.

President Biden also announced plans to build a temporary pier off the coast of the Gaza Strip for cargo ships to unload food, water, and other emergency supplies. It was expected to take 1,000 U.S. soldiers two months to construct the pier. Biden said that no American troops would be stationed in Gaza. Israel said it was going to ensure the security of goods when they arrived.

Israel also hoped that leaders of clans in Gaza would help in the distribution of aid and, when the war ends, assume authority in the Strip. Hamas sent a message to discourage Gazans from cooperating when it executed a clan leader in mid-March it believed had been contacted by Israel.

Escape is Possible for a Price

The humanitarian crisis could be resolved immediately if Egypt opened the border. Refugee camps could be set up for refugees, and no impediments would prevent them from receiving the necessary aid. They could also go to other countries; however, even as the world criticized Israel and demanded the Gazans receive more aid, not a single nation offered to take them in. Rather than pressure the Egyptians, early in the war, the United States decided civilians should remain in Gaza partly because of Palestinian fears they would not be allowed to return. Israel never said this; nevertheless, Biden and El-Sisi agreed on October 29, 2023, to ensure that “Palestinians in Gaza are not displaced to Egypt or any other nation.”

Consequently, Palestinians who could afford it paid up to $10,000 to brokers with alleged ties to the Egyptian intelligence services to escape Gaza. Money was reportedly not an impediment to terrorists and their families. Among those who found a way into Egypt were nephews and nieces of Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar and the children of his sister.

Flooding Gaza with Aid

Even as Israel insisted it was not limiting the amount of aid that could enter Gaza, it continued to be blamed for the shortage of food and supplies. The IDF announced on March 13, 2023, it planned to “flood” Gaza with aid by opening up additional land, sea, and air routes. The IDF, for example, built a road to allow trucks to deliver supplies, facilitated air drops, and agreed to secure the route for supplies transported to the pier the United States planned to build.

International organizations continued to report on the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza. According to data provided by the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Office, the following aid has been delivered between October 7, 2023, and May 1, 2024:

  • 17,327 trucks transporting 370,020 tons of food.
  • 4,052 trucks transporting 57,730 tons of shelter.
  • 1,946 trucks transporting 22,450 tons of medical supplies.
  • 1,653 trucks transporting 32,960 tons of water.
  • 260 tanks of fuel and 525 of cooking gas.
  • 1,768 trucks transporting 25,650 tons of other aid.

Increasingly, the problem was not the amount of assistance being allowed into Gaza but the inability of aid organizations to deliver it where it was most needed. After Israel opened a new crossing, for example, a convoy of trucks was immediately looted.

In a catastrophic error, the IDF killed seven World Central Kitchen workers in an airstrike on April 1. Ships carrying 240 tons of returned to Cyprus without delivering their cargo to Gaza. Other humanitarian aid organizations suspended operations in Gaza because of the danger.

An IDF investigation found that the targets were misidentified. Netanyahu expressed regret at the tragedy, but the incident amplified concerns about the safety of aid workers.

Several of Israel’s allies, including the United States, condemned Israel for the attack that resulted in the death of seven aid workers. President Biden declared, “Israel has not done enough to protect aid workers trying to deliver desperately needed help to civilians.” He said he was “outraged and heartbroken” by the incident. “Incidents like yesterday’s simply should not happen,” he added. “The United States has repeatedly urged Israel to deconflict their military operations against Hamas with humanitarian operations, in order to avoid civilian casualties.”

Aid trucks waiting for distribution (April 17, 2024)

Following the criticism from the president, Israel agreed to allow more aid to be transferred via the port of Ashdod. The Erez Crossing, which Hamas attacked on October 7, was also going to reopen to facilitate more aid deliveries.

“There is no food shortage in Gaza, and there never was,” an Israeli official insisted. “The stores are full, the markets are bursting with goods, fruits, vegetables, shawarma, pitas – there is everything. Do you know why they no longer loot convoys? Because there is no shortage. The quantities entering are not normal.”

Hundreds of aid trucks are entering Gaza each day, but many are held up, Israel says, by the inefficiency of the UN and UNRWA, which are failing to make deliveries. On April 17, for example, a video showed 750 trucks waiting on the Gaza side of the Kerem Shalom crossing.

Significantly more aid was promised by President Biden after he signed a foreign aid bill that contained $1 billion for humanitarian assistance that he said would be used for food, medical supplies, and clean water.

Even as various UN and aid organizations reported an impending famine, other sources indicated, at least in some places, that food and other supplies were readily available. An April 19, 2024, report by the Hezbollah TV station Al-Manar, for example, featured an interview with a man from the Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza, where the food shortage was supposed to be most critical, who said, “All food supplies are in the market now. What is missing now is cash and cooking gas.” A second man told the interviewer, “Allah be praised. In the past week or two, the situation has greatly changed. At first, there was nothing. There was real hunger. Today, there are vegetables. There are canned goods. Things have improved greatly, and we hope they progress from good to better.”

Construction of the floating pier (April 29, 2024)

In late April, the United States began building the pier, estimated to cost $320 million, to bring aid to Gaza by sea. On April 24, UN officials working on the project came under fire. Hamas did not take credit for the attack but said it would resist any foreign military presence involved with the port project. Israel told the U.S. it would secure the pier, but Hamas said it would consider Israeli troops “an occupying force and aggression.”

Armed groups, likely affiliated with Hamas, robbed several branches of the Bank of Palestine in Gaza in mid-April, making off with a total of around $70 million.

On May 8, an American-flagged ship arrived in Cyprus to pick up the first supplies meant to be delivered using the pier. Hamas fired mortar shells in two separate attacks at the area of the pier.

Meanwhile, the provision of aid was complicated after Israeli troops seized the main border crossing at Rafah. Israel wanted to continue to allow aid to enter through the crossing, but Egypt refused to cooperate because of its anger over Israel moving into Rafah. The U.S. blamed Israel for blocking shipments.  After U.S. pressure, Israel reopened the crossing at Kerem Shalom even though it had come under rocket attacks from Hamas.

Some 300,000 Palestinians evacuated the Rafah area, moving to a designated “humanitarian zone” after Israeli warnings of forthcoming military activity.

After airdrops killed two Palestinians, Hamas called for an end to the practice being used by the U.S., Britain, Jordan, and France. That brought the total to 21 people killed by errant airdrops.

Israeli troops advanced in Rafah as nearly one million Palestinians left. Egypt continued to hold up aid. The first supplies entered Israel via the pier; however, Palestinians overwhelmed and looted supply trucks, leading to a suspension of deliveries while security was worked out to protect them.

Aid convoys were also attacked by Israelis. A group called Tzav 9 organized groups to block aid shipments from entering Gaza, taking the position that the aid ends up in the hands of Hamas and that Gazans should not receive assistance until the hostages are released. A poll found that two-thirds of Jewish Israelis oppose providing humanitarian assistance to Gaza.

The Biden administration expressed frustration with the interference and expected Israel to ensure the aid was delivered. Police were sent to protect some shipments but Tzav 9 managed to move to different entry points and disrupt some of the shipments. After one shipment was vandalized, some Israelis began to mobilize to protect the deliveries.

In stark contradiction to claims by the UN and aid agencies about starvation and famine in Gaza, a study by seven Israeli health experts concluded in May 2024: “The quantity and quality of food delivered to Gaza have steadily improved and diversified since January 2024. The food supply contains sufficient energy and protein for the population’s needs.”

After a call from Biden to el-Sissi, Egypt agreed to allow aid deliveries to resume via Israel’s Kerem Shalom crossing until legal mechanisms were in place to reopen the Rafah gateway. To avoid criticism for collaborating with Israel’s Rafah offensive, el-Sissi solicited a statement of support from the PA.

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