Israel claims of Hamas diverting UN aid in Gaza lack evidence: US envoy

AP , Saturday 17 Feb 2024

Israel has not presented specific evidence that Hamas is diverting U.N. aid and its recent targeted killings of Gaza police commanders safeguarding truck convoys have made it “virtually impossible” to distribute the goods safely, a top U.S. envoy said in rare public criticism of Israel.

Palestinians line up for a free meal in Rafah, Gaza Strip. AP


With the departure of police escorts following Israeli strikes, criminal gangs are increasingly targeting the convoys, said David Satterfield, the Biden administration's special Middle East envoy for humanitarian issues.

He said the lawlessness as well as regular Israeli protests at crossing points by those opposed to aid going into Gaza have disrupted delivery and distribution.

“We are working with the Israeli government, the Israeli armyin seeing what solutions can be found here because everyone wants to see the assistance continue,” Satterfield told the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on Friday. A solution "is going to require some form of security escorts to return.”

Satterfield said that Israeli officials have not presented “specific evidence of diversion or theft” of U.N. assistance.

On Friday, police opened fire after a crowd charged toward an aid truck that had emerged from the Rafah crossing with Egypt. Wael Abu Omar, a spokesman for the local Crossings Authority, said one person was killed.

Israel has alleged repeatedly that Hamas is diverting aid, including fuel after it enters Gaza, a claim denied by U.N. aid agencies. Last week, an Israeli airstrike on a car killed three senior police commanders in Rafah, the first entry point for aid deliveries. Two other officers were killed in another strike.

Even before the latest setback, the U.S. has said aid reaching Gaza is woefully inadequate.

More than half of Gaza's 2.4 million people are packed into the southern city of Rafah, on the border with Egypt, having heeded Israeli evacuation orders. Yet nowhere is safe, with Israel also carrying out airstrikes in Rafah.

Israel's air and ground attacks have killed 28,858 Palestinians, most of whom were women and children. More than 68,000 people have been wounded, including 11,000 who need urgent evacuation for treatment outside Gaza.

The Israeli war has caused widespread destruction, displaced some 80% of the population, and sparked a humanitarian crisis.

Rafah area residents say it's common for groups of children and teenagers to try to stop trucks as they enter Gaza and to grab supplies.


Israel has said it is determined to expand its ground combat to Rafah, and said it would allegedly develop a plan to evacuate civilians before invading the southern city.

U.S. President Joe Biden has urged Tel Aviv not to carry out the operation without a “credible” plan to protect civilians and to instead focus on a cease-fire. Many other world leaders have issued similar messages of concern.

Israel has said it has no plans to force Palestinians into Egypt. New satellite photos, however, indicate that Egypt is preparing for that very scenario.

Egypt has denied any construction aimed at accommodating Palestinians and reiterated its opposition to any form of displacement of Palestinians from their lands.

Diaa Rashwan, the head of Egypt’s State Information Service, stressed that Cairo considers such Israeli displacement a war crime and would never be a part of it.

The SIS chief asserted that the country views the forced displacement as a grave war crime under international humanitarian law and “Egypt will never be part of it. On the contrary, it will do what it takes to stop it and prevent those who seek to commit it from implementing it,” he added.

Egypt had already had a buffer zone and fences on the border for a long time before the outbreak of the current crisis, Rashwan said.

The buffer zone, which Egypt built in recent years as part of its battle against an Islamic State insurgency, is 5 kilometers (3 miles) from the border. It was meant to prevent weapons smuggling to and from Gaza through underground tunnels. Authorities said they destroyed over 1,500 tunnels over the years.


The Palestinian Health Ministry on Saturday said the bodies of 83 people killed in Israeli bombardments were brought to hospitals in the past 24 hours.

In recent weeks, the Israeli occupation army has intensified its focus on Khan Younis, Gaza’s second-largest city, specifically targeting Nasser Hospital.

The army claimed Saturday that it has arrested 100 suspected Hamas resistance members at the hospital and claimed at least 20 of those detained had been involved in the Oct. 7 operation.

The Health Ministry said Israeli troops had turned the hospital into “military barracks" and detained a large number of medical staff.


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