Second convoy of aid enters Gaza as Israel increases bombardment | Israel-Hamas war
The White House has promised a “continued flow” of aid into Gaza, after a second convoy entered on Sunday and Israel continued to bombard the besieged enclave into the early hours of Monday.
US president Joe Biden and Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed in a call that “there will now be continued flow of … critical assistance into Gaza,” the White House said, after a second convoy of 14 trucks entered Gaza through the Rafah crossing.
The UN has warned that the volume of aid entering Gaza was just 4% of the daily average before the hostilities and a fraction of what was needed with food, water, medicines and fuel stocks running out.
COGAT, the Israeli defence body responsible for Palestinian civilian affairs, said Sunday’s second batch of aid included water, food and medical supplies and that everything was inspected by Israel before it was brought into Gaza. Israel has not allowed any fuel to enter Gaza.
The delivery came as Israel continued to target Gaza with airstrikes, concentrating on the strip’s centre and north, Palestinian media reported, adding that areas near three hospitals were hit early on Monday.
Gaza’s health authority said at least 4,600 people have been killed in Israel’s two-week bombardment – many of them women and children. The conflict broke out after Hamas militants attacked southern Israeli communities on 7 October, killing 1,400 people and taking 212 into Gaza as hostages.
In a statement released on Sunday, the leaders of the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Britain urged Israel to adhere to international humanitarian law and protect civilians, while underscoring their support for Israel and its right to defend itself.
Their calls came amid growing fears that the war could balloon into a wider Middle East conflict.
US secretary of state Antony Blinken and defence secretary Lloyd Austin said on Sunday that the US expects the conflict to escalate through involvement by proxies of Iran.
Washington has already dispatched a significant amount of naval power to the Middle East, including two aircraft carriers, support ships and about 2,000 marines, to help deter attacks by Iran-affiliated forces.
Palestinian Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh and Iranian foreign minister Hossein Amirabdollahian discussed in a call late on Sunday the means of stopping Israel’s “brutal crimes” in Gaza, Hamas said in a statement.
Israeli aircraft struck two cells of the Iran-backed Hezbollah group in Lebanon early on Monday, the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) said. With violence around its heavily guarded borders increasing, Israel on Sunday added 14 communities close to Lebanon and Syria to its evacuation contingency plan in the north of the country.
On a visit to troops in northern Israel, Netanyahu said that if Hezbollah launches a war, “it will make the mistake of its life. We will cripple it with a force it cannot even imagine, and the consequences for it and the Lebanese state will be devastating.”
Israel’s government has also warned that anyone who stays in northern Gaza risks being considered as “an accomplice in a terrorist organisation”, as it intensifies attacks on the region.
For days, Israel has been on the verge of launching a ground offensive into Gaza, with tanks and troops massed at the border, waiting for the command to cross.
Israel’s military spokesperson, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, said the country had increased airstrikes across Gaza to hit targets that would reduce the risk to troops in the next stage of the war.
The World Health Organization has said seven hospitals in northern Gaza have been forced to shut down due to damage from strikes, lack of power and supplies, or Israeli evacuation orders.
Medical staff in Gaza have warned that hospitals are running low on medical supplies and fuel for generators, forcing doctors to perform surgeries using sewing needles, resorting to vinegar as disinfectant and operating without anesthesia.
Despite the second convoy of aid entering on Sunday, Cindy McCain, executive director of the US World Food Program, said the situation in Gaza remained “catastrophic.”
Four hundred aid trucks were entering Gaza daily before the latest war, she said, adding that her organisation needed “secure and sustainable access … so we can feed people.”
Reuters and Associated Press contributed to this report