Still no aid to Gaza: Netanyahu broke his promise to Biden

No decision has been made six days after the telephone conversation between Biden and Netanyahu, when Defense Minister Yoav Galan said construction of the new crossing had begun

by Sededin Dedovic
Still no aid to Gaza: Netanyahu broke his promise to Biden
© Amir Levy / Getty Images

In the realm of international diplomacy, promises made by leaders often carry significant weight even though they are not binding. Benjamin Netanyahu's latest nudges to Joe Biden regarding increased aid to Gaza represent a pivotal moment in the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the region.

But despite assurances from Israeli officials, tangible progress appears elusive, raising concerns among aid workers and raising questions about whether Netanyahu really wants to help Gaza's civilians. A promise to facilitate the entry of a larger contingent of aid into Gaza, which Benjamin Netanyahu made to Joe Biden a week ago, remains unfulfilled, according to aid workers.

Samantha Power, head of USAID, confirmed that hunger is beginning to take over parts of the besieged coastal belt, as reported by the Guardian. The alleged increase in the number of trucks crossing into Gaza, claimed by Israel, contradicts UN data.

"So far, it's a lot less than it seems," noted Jeremy Konyndyk, a former senior official in the Biden administration and now president of the advocacy group Refugees International. "Very little has actually changed." According to Israel's N12 channel, one of Netanyahu's promises to Biden to open the port of Ashdod north of Gaza to maritime humanitarian aid has not resulted in any apparent action.

N12 reported that neither the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), Israel's Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), nor the Ashdod Port Authority have yet received instructions regarding the opening of the facility for shipments destined for Gaza.

Israeli officials have been promising their American counterparts for weeks that the crossing would be opened in northern Gaza, where starvation has become widespread. This would be at Erez, which was the main border crossing before the current conflict, or at a new location, Washington was informed.

Citizens queue for food that is cooked in large pots and distributed for free during war-time on December 28, 2023 in Rafah, Gaz© Ahmad Hasaballah / getty Images

However, no decision has been made six days after a telephone conversation between Biden and Netanyahu, during which Defense Minister Yoav Galant announced that construction of the new crossing had begun.

It remains unclear how long these construction works will last. Two other steps Israel was supposed to take to increase aid flows are also underway, with no target completion date. One is a coordination center where aid agency officials and Israeli operational commanders are supposed to sit together to ensure that aid missions are not bombed, as was the case with the World Central Kitchen (WCK) convoy on April 1, when seven aid workers were killed.

Another is a new security screening center where Israeli monitors can inspect trucks carrying humanitarian aid heading to northern Gaza before they cross. Aid officials say the amount of food reaching the coastal belt is far less than what is needed to fend off impending famine, especially in the north.

Samantha Power, head of the US humanitarian and development agency USAID, on Wednesday became the first US official to publicly confirm that famine has already hit at least some parts of Gaza. Power told a congressional committee that in mid-March, her officials analyzed expert estimates that a famine could occur between the end of that month and mid-May and found the verdict "credible." "So hunger is already showing up there?" Democratic Congressman Joaquin Castro asked her.

"That is—yes," she answered.

Citizens queue for food that is cooked in large pots and distributed for free during war-time on December 28, 2023 in Rafah, Gaz© Ahmad Hasaballah / Getty Images

The independent assessment, known as the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), used three main criteria: the number of households facing severe food shortages, the number of children suffering from acute malnutrition and the number of adults dying of starvation or a combination of disease and starvation.

In the IPC report from March, it was determined that two of the three standards have already been met or exceeded. In her comments, Power said that reaching the third threshold has been difficult and that more data is needed, but USAID expects it to be reached soon.

Israel claims that the daily traffic of trucks entering Gaza has doubled since the April 4 call between Biden and Netanyahu, to around 400. However, the UN humanitarian agency, UNRWA, said that after a brief peak of 246 on Tuesday, the number of trucks crossing into Gaza had fallen to 141 by Wednesday.

Director General of the International Organization of the Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC), Jagan Chapagain, said that the situation is "more than shocking". "Millions of lives are at risk because of hunger. "Humanitarian aid absolutely must reach those who need it, not tomorrow, but immediately," he said.

The military operations launched by Israel in response to the attack have so far killed 32,175 people in Gaza, according to the Hamas health ministry.