Aid into Gaza increased after Israel killed 7 workers, but groups say they’re not celebrating

April 24, 2024
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After Israeli strikes killed seven World Central Kitchen charity workers earlier this month sparking global outrage, convoys carrying food and supplies have entered northern Gaza for the first time since the start of the war and there has been a slight uptick in aid entering the besieged enclave.  

The increase is “nothing that we’re celebrating,” Ahmed Bayram of the Norwegian Refugee Council charity told NBC News on Sunday. But, he said, it was “an indication that diplomatic pressure can work,” and in this case American pressure in particular has brought results.

For months, aid agencies have warned that Palestinians in the Gaza Strip were at high risk of famine as children have died of malnutrition and dehydration, as Israel has blockaded the densely populated enclave. But last week, the United Nations World Food Programme said that three convoys carrying food and flour crossed into northern Gaza for the first time since the war began in October, via the Erez border crossing in southern Israel. 

Those deliveries came in the wake of widespread international condemnation about the deaths of the World Central Kitchen workers, who were killed in a series of Israeli drone strikes on their convoy in central Gaza although their vehicles were clearly marked with the charity’s logo and the team had communicated their movements to the Israeli military. 

President Joe Biden led the criticism from world leaders saying in a statement on X that he was “outraged and heartbroken,” by the deaths of a U.S.-Canada dual citizen, team members from Britain, Australia and Poland — and a Palestinian driver. “This conflict has been one of the worst in recent memory in terms of how many aid workers have been killed,” he said, adding that Israel had “not done enough to protect civilians.” 

9th humanitarian aid ship sent from Turkiye unloads in Egypt's Al Arish port
Volunteers unload a ship carrying tons of humanitarian aid for Gaza at the Al Arish port in Egypt last week.Esber Ayaydin / Anadolu via Getty Images

It also led to rare expressions of contrition from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other officials and two senior military officers were removed from their posts after the strikes were found to be in violation of protocol. Three days after the strikes, Israel announced that it was opening the Erez crossing and the Ashdod port to speed up deliveries into Gaza.  

Speaking at a news conference Monday, David Satterfield, the U.S. special envoy for Middle East humanitarian issues, said that as a result of U.S. efforts in the last six months, “the volume of assistance entering into and, most importantly, distributed within Gaza has increased significantly,” but more aid was needed. 

Data from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the Egyptian Red Crescent, which manages the transfer of aid through Gaza’s southern border, also shows an uptick in aid. 

Last week, OCHA data showed daily entries over or near 200 trucks a day. Weekly averages in March were around 160, and in February, the monthly average was below 130, according to OCHA data. Before the war, it said, the average was 500 truckloads of aid, including fuel. 

People rush to humanitarian aid packages dropped over the northern Gaza Strip on April 23, 2024.
Palestinians rush to collect humanitarian aid packages dropped over the northern Gaza Strip on Tuesday.AFP – Getty Images

While the U.S., Jordan and several other countries have airdropped aid, experts have previously told NBC News that they are ineffective because it is difficult to predict where they will land, the supplies rarely reach the most vulnerable. They can also be dangerous because they can fall on people sheltering in the streets or spark a stampede to get to the supplies. The World Central Kitchen also delivered almost 200 tons of aid by sea, but it suspended operations after its workers were killed.  

The system for getting trucks into Gaza “is still quite sloppy and a little bit willy-nilly,” Georgios Petropoulos, a senior humanitarian affairs officer for OCHA in Rafah, said Saturday. Sometimes, trucks had been held for hours or turned away because of a single restricted item, he added. 

When trucks are able to enter the enclave, Petropoulos said the roads are in terrible condition and the destruction on the ground was slowing the delivery of aid. A lack of fuel and working vehicles was also hampering the process, he said. 

Mountains of uncollected garbage and rising temperatures were adding to the misery, he said. “So what we’re facing here is malnutrition and famine on top of a garbage dump,” he added.

Israel has repeatedly denied its forces were obstructing aid from entering Gaza, where health officials say more than 34,000 people have been killed since Oct. 7, when Hamas launched multipronged attacks on Israel that claimed the lives of 1,200 people. Last month, Israel’s Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) claimed it placed “no limit” on the amount of aid allowed into the Strip. 

However, all aid for Gaza is subject to strict Israeli security checks aimed at preventing anything that could be used by Hamas from entering.

Speaking on NBC News’ “Meet the Press” on Sunday, Bob Kitchen, vice president for emergencies at the New York-based International Rescue Committee aid organization, said it was “going to take a sustained, huge uplift in aid just to catch up” with the amount of aid required for Gaza’s population of 2.3 million people. “It needs to be a tenfold increase to catch up with the needs that we see,” he added.  

“We should have the freedom of movement that we require — and, by law, we enjoy —  to distribute aid,” he said. “Everything is needed, and it starts with the fighting stopping.” 

Echoing his calls, Bayram of the Norwegian Refugee Council said that more diplomatic pressure was needed to open more crossings, increase the amount of aid into the enclave and ensure the security of aid workers.  

“We are still miles away from that,” he said. 





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