The number of trucks carrying aid and passing daily through Egypt’s Rafah border crossing to the Gaza Strip increased four-fold during the four-day truce between Hamas and Israel which ended on Monday.
The truce, brokered by Egypt, Qatar, and the United States, has not only increased the number of aid trucks passing through the crossing but also facilitated the delivery of some of the aid to the northern governorates of the Strip. Previously, Israel had restricted access to parts of the north where thousands of Palestinians are in desperate need of essential supplies.
On Tuesday, Diaa Rashwan, head of Egypt’s State Information Service (SIS), declared that Egypt had facilitated the entrance of 2,263 trucks into the Gaza Strip, carrying a total of 25,240 tons of aid since the start of the war on 7 October.
The average number of trucks that used to enter the Gaza Strip before the truce was 50 per day, according to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). Rashwan stated that on the first day of the truce, 200 aid trucks entered the Gaza Strip.
Prior to last week’s pause in the fighting, Israel’s complete blockade of water, food, and fuel to the Gaza Strip since the start of the war left tens of thousands of the 2.3 million Palestinians in Gaza on the verge of starvation.
Adnan Abu Hasna, spokesman for the UN UNRWA in Gaza, said in a phone-in with Al-Jazeera that prior to the truce, only 50 trucks with humanitarian aid reached Gaza daily compared to 500 trucks loaded with assistance entering the Strip before the war.
“Since Friday [the first day of the truce], we successfully reached Gaza City and the northern governorates, distributing food, water, and medicine either in refugee camps or out of them,” Abu Hasna said.
Nebal Farsakh, the Palestine Red Crescent spokesperson, said in a phone call to CNN on Monday that “since the beginning of the [military] escalation, our teams were completely prevented access to transport any aid from the south [of the Gaza Strip] to the north.”
Although Farsakh stated that aid has reached the northern parts of the Gaza Strip following the truce, she noted that it did not fulfil the needs of its residents. “It is just a glimpse of hope,” she said.
The UNRWA spokesperson in Gaza said there are hundreds of thousands in Gaza city and the north living in a “devastated area where the people are suffering from hunger, thirst, and diseases.”
Eighty per cent of Gaza’s total population has been displaced, he said, adding that UNRWA has 156 shelters accommodating 156,000 refugees.
“In Gaza, there are 2.3 million citizens who are currently in desperate need of all types of assistance. When the war began, the weather was summery, but now we are in winter, and all the displaced individuals have left behind their belongings. Therefore, there is an urgent need for blankets, mattresses, and clothing,” Abu Hasna said.
This comes in addition to the crucial need for fuel, cooking gas, medicines, and water, he noted.
“We do not want to reach a point where Palestinians, instead of being killed in air strikes, are lost to epidemics. The entire surrounding environment is at risk of contributing to the spread of diseases, especially cholera,” the UNRWA spokesperson said.
WHO Spokesperson Margaret Harris said on Tuesday that more people could die from diseases than from air strikes if the health system is not repaired in the Gaza Strip.
During a UN briefing in Geneva, Harris repeated concerns over the increase in the outbreak of infectious diseases.
“Eventually, we will see more people dying from disease than we are even seeing from the bombardment if we are not able to put back this health system [of Gaza],” she said.
According to statements by Palestine Health Minister Mai Al-Kaila on Monday, 35,000 Palestinian in the Gaza Strip had been injured, but that 26 out of 35 hospitals were currently out of service due to the depletion of fuel supplies.
Abu Hasna said 120,000 litres of fuel were needed daily in the Gaza Strip to operate water desalination stations, hospitals, bakeries, and sewage facilities, and also to support UNRWA operations.
Around 130,000 litres of fuel are allowed to enter the Gaza Strip every day, according to the terms of the four-day truce.
On Tuesday, Rashwan said 1,048 tons of fuel had entered Gaza since the start of the war through the Rafah crossing.
Rashwan added that Egypt has received 566 injured Palestinians from Gaza for treatment in Egyptian hospitals.
He affirmed Egypt is continuing its efforts to accelerate the transfer of humanitarian aid into Gaza to help alleviate the suffering of Palestinians.
Rashwan also said that the four-day truce had progressed without obstruction, thanks to the intense mediation efforts by Egypt, Qatar, and the US.
* A version of this article appears in print in the 30 November, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly