US seeks 'results' after Israel promised more aid routes to Gaza

World leaders and aid groups said Friday that Israel must show concrete results after reacting to growing U.S. pressure by announcing it will open more aid routes to the Gaza Strip, where the United Nations has warned that a famine is imminent.

At a press conference in Brussels on Friday, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken welcomed the new aid routes, calling them “positive developments,” but said the United States was watching to see whether Israel will make it a priority. the alleviation of humanitarian difficulties. crisis in Gaza. One measure of Israel's commitment, he said, will be “the number of trucks that actually arrive on an ongoing basis.”

“The true test is the results, and that's what we hope to see in the coming days and weeks,” he said, adding, “Really, the proof is in the results.”

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock called on Israel to open new aid routes “quickly”.

Israel said on Friday it had agreed to open the Erez crossing to allow aid into northern Gaza, where hunger is particularly severe; use the Israeli port of Ashdod to direct more aid to the enclave; and significantly increase deliveries from Jordan.

The announcement was made just hours after President Biden suggested, in a phone call to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, that further American support for Israel would depend on its action to protect civilians and aid workers in Gaza and to relieve the hunger crisis in the area.

Although some Gazans said they have recently heard that additional aid is flowing through existing routes, it is still not enough to feed their families.

“We are clinging to life, and that's it,” said Mohammad al-Masri, a 31-year-old accountant. He was sheltering with his family in a tent in Rafah, a crowded city of hundreds of thousands of uprooted Gazans that Israel has vowed to invade in its campaign to destroy Hamas. He said his family was able to buy canned meat and vegetables and get rice and beans from a charity.

“Aid does not always reach displaced people, except for very few,” he said in a WhatsApp message on Friday. “Mostly everything is sold on the market,” she added, echoing what many Gazans have been saying for months.

Friday was a holy day for Muslims observing Ramadan, a day that would normally involve increased religious observance and preparations for the Eid al-Fitr celebrations marking the end of Ramadan. But Mr al-Masri said there was none of that in the tent where he lived.

“Most people fast because there is nothing to eat anyway,” he said. “We didn't think this was Ramadan.”

Since the start of the war, Israel has limited aid entering Gaza to the two tightly controlled border crossings of Kerem Shalom and Rafah. Aid groups have said they face enormous challenges trying to move supplies through those crossings, including lengthy Israeli inspections and the risk of Israeli attacks on their workers in Gaza.

Global outrage against Israel reached new heights this week after Israeli drone strikes killed six foreign citizens and one Palestinian who worked for the charity group World Central Kitchen and were traveling in three vehicles in central Gaza.

After the attack, World Central Kitchen suspended its operations in Gaza, and other aid groups and officials from the United States, Britain and other countries have said Israel must do more to ensure the safety of aid workers.

The World Food Programme, an arm of the United Nations, said on Friday it would ask Israel to clarify security and logistical arrangements for the new routes “so we can act quickly to take advantage of any new opportunities to feed more Gazans.” as famine takes over.

Israeli officials did not immediately clarify when the new routes would open or how much aid might pass through them. In particular, the Erez border crossing in northern Gaza could present logistical hurdles as most of the humanitarian aid has been stored in Egypt, on the opposite side of the coastal enclave.

Charles Michel, president of the European Council, said that the new measures are simply “not enough” and that “urgent efforts are needed to put an immediate end to hunger.”

“Gaza's children and infants are dying of malnutrition,” he wrote on social media.

At a United Nations Security Council meeting on Friday, Riyad H. Mansour, the Palestinian ambassador to the United Nations, stressed that Israel's reaction to the deaths of the World Central Kitchen workers was markedly different from its reaction to the deaths of Palestinians.

He noted that Israel quickly investigated the attack on the charity group's convoy and then removed two officers and reprimanded three senior commanders for their roles in it.

“Who will be held responsible for all the tens of thousands of Palestinian civilians killed?” he said, alluding to the more than 32,000 Gazans who have been killed, according to the territory's health authorities. “Are our lives not worthy of holding accountable those who kill us, and kill us in large numbers?”

Gilad Erdan, Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, expressed his condolences over the deaths of the World Central Kitchen workers, but said the attacks on their convoy were a “tragic mistake made due to the cynical modus operandi of Hamas to exploit civilian infrastructure and vehicles”.

“Israel never deliberately targets civilians – ever – let alone humanitarian workers carrying out crucial work,” he told the council.

The council's debate in New York came as the top UN human rights committee in Geneva adopted a resolution on Friday calling on all countries to stop supplying weapons to Israel, warning of possible violations of humanitarian law international and human rights abuses.

The Human Rights Committee approved the resolution with 28 votes in favour, 6 against and 13 abstentions. The United States and Germany, Israel's largest arms suppliers, voted against the measure, even as the US ambassador to the council, Michèle Taylor, criticized Israel's continuation of the war.

“Israel has not done enough to mitigate civilian harm,” Taylor said before the vote, calling for an immediate ceasefire and urging Netanyahu to negotiate a deal with Hamas.

Israel's representative on the committee, Meirav Eilon Shahar, condemned the resolution's passage as a “very dark day in the council's history.” Pointing out that the resolution does not denounce Hamas for attacking Israel on October 7, he said the committee had “turned a blind eye” to acts of violence against Israelis.

Subsequently, the Israeli Foreign Ministry issued a statement underlining that the Council had ignored the supply of weapons to Hamas by Iran and its allies.

Ultimately, many world leaders have said that a ceasefire would be the surest way to get more aid to Gaza and to free the hostages still held there. But talks aimed at reaching such an agreement have been stalled for weeks.

In an effort to help the parties reach a deal, CIA director William J. Burns was due to travel to Cairo on Saturday to meet with his Israeli counterpart, David Barnea, and Qatari and Egyptian officials, who have mediated with Hamas, according to two people briefed on the plans.

Reporting contribution was provided by Nick Cumming-Bruce, Matina Stevis-Gridneff, Gaya Gupta, Johnatan Reiss AND Julian E. Barnes.

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