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Israelis push back against Blinken’s pressure on humanitarian aid

IDF is ‘screening aid trucks faster than aid organizations are able to get them into Gaza,’ spokesman says


Secretary of State Tony Blinken (L) meets with Israel's Foreign Minister Israel Katz (2nd-R) in Tel Aviv on January 9, 2024, during his week-long trip aimed at calming tensions across the Middle East.

Secretary of State Tony Blinken’s visit to Israel came with a heightened focus on the ability to get humanitarian aid “more effectively” to Palestinian civilians in Gaza. 

His remarks — that Israel “needs to do everything it can to remove any obstacles, from crossings to other parts of Gaza, improving deconfliction procedures to ensure the aid can move safely and securely” — sparked an unusually sharp response from the IDF spokesman, and came as hostages’ families attempted to block aid trucks entering Gaza.

At a press conference in Tel Aviv on Tuesday night, Blinken pushed the humanitarian message, highlighting a U.N. claim that 90% of Gaza’s population faces acute food insecurity, noting that the situation is “excruciating,” and “for children…can have lifelong consequences.”

“More food, more water, more medicine, other essential goods need to get into Gaza. And then once they’re in Gaza, they need to get more effectively to the people who need them,” Blinken said, adding: “And Israel needs to do everything it can to remove any obstacles from crossings to other parts of Gaza…to ensure that the aid can move safely and securely.”

Blinken also praised the U.N. as “indispensable…in addressing the immense humanitarian needs in Gaza. There is simply no alternative. U.N. personnel and other aid workers in Gaza are demonstrating extraordinary courage by continuing to provide lifesaving services in what are extremely challenging conditions.”

He further praised Sigrid Kaag, the new U.N. senior humanitarian and reconstruction coordinator for Gaza, and said she must have Israel’s “full support.”

Kaag, who has held multiple ministerial roles in the Dutch government, is the wife of Anis al-Qaq, who was deputy prime minister of the Palestinian Authority under Yasser Arafat. While in government,, she clashed with then-Prime Minister Mark Rutte over his pro-Israel stance and oversaw the funding of a Palestinian NGO whose finances were run by a terrorist involved in the murder of 17-year-old Israeli Rina Schnerb.

IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari posted a video to X (formerly Twitter) shortly after Blinken’s remarks, pushing back against his allegations in English and more vehemently than his usual dispassionate tone.

“We will not lose sight – not for a second – of our humanity as we pursue our mission to free our hostages from Hamas and free Gaza from Hamas,” Hagari emphasized.

“We are making vast efforts to minimize harm to the civilians that Hamas has forced into the role of human shields,” Hagari said. “Our war is against Hamas, not against the people of Gaza; we’re going to live next to them. 

“This might not fit the narrative told on TV or TikTok, but our actions are proof that we care more about the people of Gaza than Hamas, who seeks the suffering of their own people as a strategy,” he continued.

Hagari said that Israel is “ready and willing to facilitate as much humanitarian aid as the world will give.”

While the IDF checks trucks to ensure weapons do not enter Gaza, Hagari said, “we have been screening aid trucks faster than aid organizations are able to get them into Gaza.

“Unfortunately, for weeks there have been long lines of humanitarian aid [trucks] sitting, waiting to get to the people of Gaza who truly need this critical aid,” he pointed out. 

In addition, there have been rampant cases of looting of aid trucks and Hamas terrorists stealing and stockpiling goods.

Hagari said the IDF tries to help aid providers with their “distribution problems” by holding daily meetings and seeking practical solutions, such as coordinating humanitarian corridors and considering aid distribution in its operations.

While Blinken urged Israeli leaders on Tuesday to do more to get humanitarian aid into Gaza, a convoy of relatives of hostages being held by Hamas attempted to block the trucks.

Israeli police stopped the group of 30, organized by the family of hostage Omer Wenkert, when they reached Avshalom, a community near the Kerem Shalom crossing into Gaza. The group hung a banner calling for “humanitarian for humanitarian” – meaning aid for the hostages, as well.

“I’m OK with [humanitarian aid]; they need to get food,” Ella Metzger, daughter-in-law of hostage Yoram Metzger, 80, told Global News. “But my father-in-law also needs to get medicine, get food. We don’t know anything about them, and no one went there to see [the hostages], to photo[graph] them, to see if they’re OK, nothing. No Red Cross, nothing.”

Back in Tel Aviv, 100 women demonstrated outside the Kempinski Hotel where Blinken was staying, calling to free the hostages.

Another group calling itself “Mothers of Combat Soldiers” rallied in front of a banner in which President Joe Biden’s son Hunter and daughter Ashley were depicted in military uniforms and helmets with the message, “Let our children fight as you would let your children fight.” The group argued that the U.S. is pressuring Israel to use fewer airstrikes, thus putting more IDF soldiers in harm’s way.

Meanwhile, mainstream voices on Israel’s right have repeatedly made the argument that letting large quantities of humanitarian aid into Gaza prolongs the war by bolstering Hamas.

In a speech given in Qatar this week, Hamas head Ismail Haniyeh seemed to agree, calling contributions to Gaza “financial jihad,” and “not just a humanitarian issue,” according to MEMRI.

Haniyeh also said that prolonging the war helps Hamas: “At the beginning of this aggression, the Americans were waving a big stick in the face of the world…But the language of the same countries has now changed because of [Palestinian] steadfastness.”

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