UN sees 'promising signs' of Gaza aid access via Israel

AFP , Thursday 7 Dec 2023

UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths said he saw promising signs Thursday that the Karm Abu Salem (Kerem Shalom) crossing from Israel into the Gaza Strip might be opened soon to allow aid in.

Humanitarian aid goods for the Gaza Strip through Egypt ahead of the departure of an aircraft at the
Humanitarian aid goods for the Gaza Strip through Egypt ahead of the departure of an aircraft at the regional airport of Oostende, on December 7, 2023. AFP


The checkpoint was responsible for 60 per cent of goods getting into the besieged Palestinian territory before October 7 and the start of the Israeli war on Gaza.

Griffiths said that in recent days there had been signs that key countries have become much more open to the idea of gradually reopening Karm Abu Salem.

"We're still negotiating, and with some promising signs at the moment, access through Kerem Shalom... that that may be able to open soon," Griffiths told a press conference in Geneva.

An Israeli siege has seen only limited supplies of food, water, fuel and medicines enter Gaza, triggering dire shortages.

Currently, only the Rafah border crossing with Egypt is open for any aid to flow into Gaza.

"We have been arguing for the opening of Kerem Shalom, not just as an opening to allow trucks to go there, to then go through Rafah and then up into Gaza -- but to go straight through Kerem Shalom up into the northern parts of Gaza, or wherever the need is greatest," Griffiths said.

"If we get that -- it will be the first miracle we've seen for some weeks -- but it will be a huge boost to the logistical process... it would change the nature of humanitarian access."

Potential Jordan route 

The latest toll from the Gaza government media office said more than 17,000 people in Gaza, 70 per cent of them women and children, had been killed.

Griffiths added that there were also discussions on the possibility of driving aid to the Gaza Strip from Jordan, via the Allenby Bridge crossing into the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

"I have a representative, as we speak, in Jordan, already lining up the potential deliveries of aid by land from Jordan which could come straight through from Jordan over the Allenby Bridge, straight to Kerem Shalom," he said.

'Horsemen of the apocalypse' 

On the situation inside the Gaza Strip, Griffiths said the territory was being stalked by hunger and deprivation.

"There are two horsemen of the apocalypse in Gaza today: conflict, of course, but also disease, and that will only get worse as we are unable to sustain any supplies to hospitals," he said.

"The pointers are going in the wrong direction -- all of them."

Griffiths said southern Gaza had been the cornerstone of international humanitarian plans to protect civilians and administer aid to them.

But now, "without places of safety, that plan is in tatters", he said, calling the current circumstances, "at best, humanitarian opportunism.

"It's erratic, it's undependable and frankly, it's not sustainable."

The British diplomat said there was no sense of clarity, planning or what the coming days may bring.

"None of us can see where this will end," he said.

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