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Biden welcomed the movement of the first limited humanitarian convoy into Gaza

Written by on October 21, 2023

U.S. President Joe Biden welcomed Saturday the movement of the first limited humanitarian convoy into the besieged Gaza Strip through the Egypt-controlled Rafah Crossing.

“The United States remains committed to ensuring that civilians in Gaza will continue to have access to food, water, medical care, and other assistance, without diversion by Hamas,” Biden said in a statement. Hamas controls the Gaza Strip.

Dozens of aid trucks have been lined up near the Rafah crossing for several days, waiting for the border to open to bring aid to Gaza’s more than 2 million residents. On Saturday morning the border opened briefly to allow the 20-truck convoy led by the Egyptian Red Crescent in with urgently needed food, water and medicine.

“We will continue to work with all parties to keep the Rafah crossing in operation to enable the continued movement of aid that is imperative to the welfare of the people of Gaza, and to continue working to protect civilians, consistent with obligations under international humanitarian law,” Biden said.

He thanked the leaders of Israel, Egypt and the United Nations for making it possible.

First aid arrives

Earlier Saturday, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told a peace summit in Cairo that the trucks need to move quickly in “a massive, sustained and safe way” to Gaza.

“The people of Gaza need a commitment for much, much more — a continuous delivery of aid to Gaza at the scale that is needed,” he said. “We are working nonstop with all parties that are relevant to make it happen.”

Israel has not allowed any food, water, medical supplies or fuel into Gaza since Hamas launched a surprise attack on Israel on October 7. Some 1,400 people were killed and 200 more were kidnapped, triggering an Israeli bombing campaign and a total blockade of Gaza. The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry reported on Saturday that 4,300 Palestinians have been killed. Gaza is now bracing for an Israeli ground invasion.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken also welcomed the aid convoy, saying its deployment was the result of “days of exhaustive U.S. diplomatic engagement in the region.” He echoed the president’s warning to Hamas not to interfere.

“As President Biden stated, if Hamas steals or diverts this assistance it will have demonstrated once again that it has no regard for the welfare of the Palestinian people and as a practical matter it will hinder the international community from being able to provide this aid,” he said. “Civilian lives must be protected, and assistance must urgently reach those in need.”

A lifeline

The World Food Program said three of its trucks were part of the convoy. They carried 60 tons of emergency food, including canned food, wheat flour and pasta. The WFP has another 930 tons of emergency food items at or near the Rafah crossing, ready to be brought into Gaza whenever access is allowed again.

“This food is desperately needed as the conditions inside Gaza are truly catastrophic. These 20 trucks are an important first step, but this convoy has to be the first of many,” WFP Executive Director Cindy McCain said in a statement.

The World Health Organization said four of its trucks were in the convoy carrying trauma kits, medicine for the treatment of chronic diseases, and basic medicine and health supplies. It says it has more supplies in Egypt and on the way there.

“The supplies currently heading into Gaza will barely begin to address the escalating health needs as hostilities continue to grow,” the WHO said in a statement. “A scaled up and protected aid operation is desperately needed.”

The U.N. children’s agency, UNICEF, sent about 44,000 bottles of water — enough for only 22,000 people for one day. As stockpiles began running out this week, aid agencies struggled to provide a single liter of water each day to Gazans.

“This first, limited water will save lives, but the needs are immediate and immense — not just for water, but for food, fuel, medicine, and essential goods and services,” said UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell. “Unless we can provide humanitarian supplies consistently, we face the real threat of life-threatening disease outbreaks.”

Five U.N. aid agencies put out a joint statement saying Saturday’s delivery was a lifeline, but far from adequate. Even before the October 7 hostilities erupted, nearly one-third of Gaza’s residents were food insecure.

“Gaza was a desperate humanitarian situation before the most recent hostilities,” the U.N. agencies said. “It is now catastrophic. The world must do more.”


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