Egyptian trucks carrying humanitarian aid undergo security checks

Egyptian trucks carrying humanitarian aid undergo security checks at the Israeli side of the Kerem Shalom border crossing before entering the southern Gaza Strip on January 22, 2024.

(Photo: Menahem Kahana/AFP via Getty Images)

As Civilians Starve in Gaza, Israelis Block Humanitarian Aid Convoy for Third Day

"The hostages must be released," said one Palestinian rights advocate, but Israel "must also ensure continuous entry of lifesaving aid to Gaza."

With nearly the entire population of Gaza now regularly forced to go without food for an entire day due to Israel's total blockade of the enclave, protests by hundreds of Israelis at a crossing between Gaza and Israel over the past three days have put residents at even greater risk of starvation by blocking the passage of humanitarian convoys.

Demonstrators displaying Israeli flags have stopped trucks from entering Gaza through the Kerem Shalom crossing since Wednesday, forcing some to go through the Rafah crossing in Egypt or preventing them from delivering the aid altogether.

Some of the protesters have been identified as relatives of the reported 132 hostages who remain in Gaza after being abducted by Hamas from southern Israel on October 7, while others are related to Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers and some are right-wing activists who want the return of Israeli settlements in Gaza.

On Wednesday, members of the Tzal 9, or Order 9, movement—named for the emergency notice received by Israeli reservists to mobilize—said, "No aid goes through until the last of the abductees returns, no equipment [will] be transferred to the enemy."

As the protests began that day, the demonstrators stopped more than 100 aid trucks from entering Gaza and allowed just 153 in, according to the United Nations—far below the amount of aid that's been permitted in on a daily basis in recent weeks. Before the current war, many Palestinians in Gaza relied on the delivery of aid via an average of 500 trucks per day.

"The hostages must be released and Israel must respect the right to protest, but it must also ensure continuous entry of lifesaving aid to Gaza," said Tania Hary, executive director of Gisha - Legal Center for Freedom of Movement.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi said Wednesday that by holding up humanitarian aid deliveries, Israel is "using this as a pressure tool on the people of the strip," despite claims by officials and the protesters who have mobilized at Kerem Shalom that they are only trying to keep deliveries from "aiding the enemy."

Right-wing Israeli groups are reportedly planning a march in Jerusalem next week to protest aid entering Gaza.

Earlier this month, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini condemned Israel's "baseless" claim that Gazans are currently facing starvation because Hamas is diverting aid deliveries.

The protesters at Kerem Shalom have said Gazans should receive no more aid until the hostages are released.

But negotiations between Israel and Hamas, brokered by Qatar, were stalled this week as Israel refused to agree to a permanent cease-fire in exchange for the release of the remaining hostages.

According to the BBC, Israeli and American officials including Central Intelligence Agency Director William Burns are expected to hold "critical" talks in Europe with Egyptian and Qatari mediators.

A senior Palestinian official told the outlet that they may discuss a proposal to initiate a "phased release" of the remaining hostages in exchange for a "renewable" cease-fire, more aid, and the release of Palestinians imprisoned in Israel.

Since Israel began its bombardment of Gaza on October 7 with officials saying the IDF should "release all restraints" that would otherwise protect civilians, at least 26,083 Palestinians have been killed in the densely-populated enclave, including at least 11,500 children.

The "complete siege" Israel declared on Gaza, with deliveries of food, potable water, fuel, and other aid severely curtailed, has left "half a million people literally starving" nearly four months into the assault, the World Food Program's (WFP) chief economist said earlier this week.

"We are one step away from a disease outbreak," WFP's Arif Husain told U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in a livestreamed conversation, noting that a lack of sustenance has left thousands of displaced people living in overcrowded shelters and camps more susceptible to disease outbreaks that have been partially caused by a lack of safe drinking water.

The blocking of aid at Kerem Shalom also comes days after the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor reported that the IDF launched an attack with artillery shells, live ammunition, and drones on "hundreds of starving civilians" who were waiting near Gaza City for "U.N. trucks carrying limited aid supplies."

Health officials in Gaza said at least 20 people were killed and 150 were injured in the attack.

Humanitarian officials in the enclave have reported seeing Gaza residents mobbing aid trucks when they arrive due to the "systematic limitation" Israel has placed on convoys even before the protests at Kerem Shalom began.

"It's difficult to get into the places where we need to get to in Gaza, especially in northern Gaza," WFP spokesperson Abeer Etefa told Reuters. "I think the risk of having pockets of famine in Gaza is very much still there."

Join Us: News for people demanding a better world

Common Dreams is powered by optimists who believe in the power of informed and engaged citizens to ignite and enact change to make the world a better place.

We're hundreds of thousands strong, but every single supporter makes the difference.

Your contribution supports this bold media model—free, independent, and dedicated to reporting the facts every day. Stand with us in the fight for economic equality, social justice, human rights, and a more sustainable future. As a people-powered nonprofit news outlet, we cover the issues the corporate media never will. Join with us today!

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.