The 20 aid trucks that entered Gaza on Saturday from Egypt through the Rafah border crossing carried much-needed food, water and medicine for the besieged Palestinian enclave, but it was unclear when more aid would be allowed to enter.
As living conditions deteriorate in Gaza, the first trucks were dispatched using an expedited process that did not require physical inspections, according to officials with knowledge of the negotiations, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive talks. Future shipments will need to be checked, the officials said.
Verification of the cargo is a key demand from the Israelis, who want to ensure items of use to Palestinian fighters do not flow into Gaza and into the hands of Hamas, the militant group that controls the coastal strip, diplomats say.
For the first convoy, however, the trucks’ inventories were instead submitted to the Egyptians, the United Nations and Israel before they were allowed to depart, the officials said. The aid was then given to the Palestinian Red Crescent for distribution, That expedited process used for the first 20 trucks would not be replicated, the officials said.
The living conditions in Gaza have grown ever more dire since Israel tightened its 16-year blockade of the enclave after the brutal assault by Hamas terrorists that left roughly 1,400 dead in Israel. Israel cut off food, water and fuel, and supplies are running short, adding to the difficulties of hundreds of thousands of Gazans who have been forced to leave their homes during the war.
After a visit to Israel on Wednesday, President Biden announced that he had brokered an agreement between Egyptian and Israeli authorities to allow 20 trucks of aid into Gaza, but days of contentious negotiations kept the aid sitting at the Rafah border crossing.
A verification process for cargo in future shipments is still being negotiated, officials from the European Union and the U.N. said, speaking anonymously to offer insights into the fragile talks.
Under one proposal, the U.N. would verify the cargo without the involvement of any other authorities, officials say, to ensure aid is handled with neutrality in line with standard humanitarian aid principles.
Another important question that remained unresolved on Saturday was whether fuel would be permitted into Gaza, the officials added. The U.N. and aid donors such as the European Union insist that fuel is vital to operate generators that power hospitals and water desalination plants in Gaza. But Israel is concerned that Hamas could use the fuel for military operations.
The Health Ministry in Gaza, which is run by Hamas, warned on Saturday that continuing to leave fuel out of the aid convoys could have “dangerous repercussions” for the enclave’s health care system. Seven hospitals and 25 health care clinics are out of service because they ran out of fuel, and bed occupancy in Gaza’s remaining hospitals reached more than 150 percent, the ministry said in a statement.
Monika Pronczuk contributed reporting.