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Israeli Army agrees to resume Gaza food sales as Rafah raid chokes aid

الخميس 30/مايو/2024 - 11:28 م
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 Israeli Army authorities gave Gazan traders the green light to resume their purchases from Israeli and Palestinian suppliers of food such as fresh fruit، vegetables and dairy goods this month، days after Israeli forces launched an assault on the enclave's southernmost city of Rafah has and Israeli military lifted a ban on the sale of food to Gaza from Israel and the occupied West Bank as its battlefield offensive chokes international aid.


The Israeli Army halted the flow of U.N. aid to the devastated Palestinian territory


The Israeli Army offensive against Rafah، a key gateway into Gaza from Egypt، has effectively halted the flow of U.N. aid to the devastated Palestinian territory، while  Israel is coming under mounting global pressure to ease the crisis as humanitarian agencies warn of looming famine according to Palestinian officials، businessmen and international aid workers.


The Israeli Army authorities phoned Gazan distributors who had been purchasing goods from the West Bank and Israel before the war and  told them it was ready to coordinate the pick-up of goods.


The resumption of commercial food deliveries bound for sale in Gazan markets 


Reuters، which interviewed more than a dozen people familiar with the development، is the first news outlet to report on the details and impact of this resumption of commercial food deliveries bound for sale in Gazan markets and stores، according to  Israeli Army authorities. 


The shift of Israeli Army authorities marks the first time any goods produced inside Israel or the West Bank، an Israeli-occupied Palestinian territory، have been allowed into Gaza since war erupted in October last year، according to the Palestinian officials، traders and residents.


Israeli Army to boost humanitarian aid and increase the amount of food for sale in Gaza


Asked by Reuters about the resumption of deliveries، COGAT، the branch of the Israeli Army military responsible for aid transfers، said it was looking at ways to boost humanitarian aid and increase the amount of food for sale in Gaza.


The Israeli Army is allowing for the private sector to bring some food into the Gaza Strip as part of those efforts to increase the amount of food that's coming in، spokesperson Shimon Freedman said.


Ayed Abu Ramadan، chair of the Gaza Chamber of Commerce stated that aid workers have urged Israeli Army authorities for months to allow more commercial deliveries to enter Gaza so fresh food can supplement international aid، which mostly contains non-perishables like flour and tinned food، still، the reopening is no panacea.


Israeli Army authorities allows in between 20 and 150 trucks per day 


The flow of deliveries، conducted via the Kerem Shalom border crossing between southern Gaza and Israel، has been erratic، according to Palestinian officials who said anywhere between 20 and 150 trucks، each carrying up to 20 tonnes of food،  have entered per day depending on how many Israeli Army authorities allows in.


That is well short of the 600 trucks a day that the U.S. Agency for International Development، is required to address the threat of famine، even when adding the roughly 4،200 trucks of food aid، about 190 a day،  that Israeli Army authorities officials say،   have entered Gaza since the beginning of the Rafah assault on May 7. 


An average of 500 aid and commercial trucks entered Gaza each day


The Israeli Army authorities revealed that before the war began on Oct. 7، when Palestinian group Hamas attacked southern Israel، an average of 500 aid and commercial trucks entered Gaza each day carrying all the goods needed in the enclave from food and medical supplies to farming equipment.  


U.N. figures show that the average number since then is below 140 trucks a day، according to a Reuters tally of Israeli Army authorities statistics، even as Israeli military has laid waste to the enclave in it mission to eradicate Hamas، sending aid needs through the roof.


The food coming in Gaza is so expensive


The food coming in is also expensive، and scant replacement for international aid that has already been paid for by donor countries and organizations، said four aid workers involved in coordinating deliveries to Gaza and they requested anonymity to speak freely about sensitive matters.


Three Gazan residents interviewed said they had seen Hebrew-labelled produce in markets، including watermelons from an Israeli settlement، but that it was often being sold at prices too high for cash- strapped and displaced families as the price of two eggs is 16 shekels ($5)، while normally the price of 30 eggs is less than 16 shekels.


Shortages of aid supplies after Israeli Army strike in Rafah


Palestinians gather to receive food cooked by a charity kitchen، amid shortages of aid supplies، after Israeli Army forces launched a ground and air operation in the eastern part of Rafah، as the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas continues، in Rafah، in the southern Gaza Strip.

Israeli Army forces launched its assault on Rafah on May 7، defying warnings from its closest ally the United States that the offensive would cause more civilian casualties and from aid agencies who said it could upend efforts to deliver food to Gazans، so a week later، Abu Ramadan of the Chamber of Commerce said that the Israeli military began contacting traders in Gaza saying they could resume taking deliveries of food from Israel and the West Bank.


All suppliers and goods have to be vetted by the Israeli military


Under the Israeli Army forces arrangement، all suppliers and goods have to be vetted by the Israeli military، according to Wassim Al-Jaabari، head of the West Bank food and industry union who assured that the Gaza distributors meet the trucks sent by suppliers at the Kerem Shalom crossing on Gaza's southern border where the military examines the goods before allowing the distributors to take them into the enclave.


A copy of a COGAT list seen by Reuters showed that on May 22، 127 trucks carrying watermelons، lemons، eggs and milk as well as spices، rice، pasta، sugar and other items had been ordered by Gazan distributors، and the list showed that most of the supplies came from the West Bank، though Reuters couldn't determine if that was representative of deliveries more broadly and no free goods or charitable donations were allowed in from the West Bank or Israel، only products for sale.


Transport prices  push the goods cost up


None of the five interviewed businessmen involved in the trade would disclose exactly what they charge for a full shipment، but said their prices were what it normally cost to sell in the West Bank but transport prices  push the cost up as trucks often have to spend a long time on the road near Kerem Shalom waiting for inspection and are sometimes ransacked by Israelis protesting the entry of goods to Gaza. 


Two distributors inside Gaza declined to say how much they bought and sold goods for but they pay the West Bank suppliers by bank transfer and take cash from sellers in local markets، while the goods have also been distributed unevenly، with few of them making it to northern Gaza where fears of famine are most acute as even if there is plenty of flour here، most people can't afford.