Aid delivery to Gaza stalled despite available supplies

Armed gangs systematically attack and stop vehicles, with a particular focus on those smuggling cigarettes, which fetch exorbitant prices on Gaza’s black market.

Hundreds of pallets of food lie in the sun on the Israel-Gaza border, just miles away from starving Palestinian families in Gaza. This situation highlights the complex challenges in delivering humanitarian aid to the besieged territory.

Despite a daytime pause in fighting along a key stretch of road near the Kerem Shalom crossing point, humanitarian agencies report significant difficulties in transporting vital supplies into southern Gaza. The primary obstacle, according to aid officials, is not a lack of supplies but growing lawlessness within Gaza itself.

Georgios Petropoulos, head of the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Gaza, described the looting as profound, estimating that on a recent Tuesday, three-quarters of the goods on lorries entering from the crossing were stolen. Armed gangs systematically attack and stop vehicles, with a particular focus on those smuggling cigarettes, which fetch exorbitant prices on Gaza’s black market. Fuel trucks have also become recent targets.

The security vacuum left by Israel’s military offensive against Hamas has led to a breakdown in civil order. With few functioning police officers remaining in Gaza, it’s unclear whether the organized crime responsible for the looting is affiliated with Hamas, local clans, or other groups.

During a media tour of Kerem Shalom, Cogat, the Israeli military body responsible for operating the crossings, claimed it places no limit on the amount of aid that can enter Gaza. Journalists were shown what was described as a backlog of more than 1,000 truckloads of aid that had passed security checks and were awaiting collection on the Gaza side.

Cogat spokesman Shimon Freedman attributed the bottleneck to insufficient distribution capacity on the part of international organizations. He cited a need for the UN, the primary aid distributor in Gaza, to increase its number of trucks, expand manpower, extend working hours, and improve storage capabilities.

This situation presents a complex humanitarian crisis where the availability of aid is not the primary issue, but rather the safe and efficient distribution of supplies within Gaza. The breakdown of civil order, coupled with logistical challenges, has created a bottleneck that leaves desperately needed aid tantalizingly close yet frustratingly out of reach for many Gazans.