On US port plan, UN says more aid to Gaza is ‘obviously good’

FILE PHOTO: Displaced Palestinian children, who fled their houses due to Israeli strikes, sit at a tent camp, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, March 6, 2024. REUTERS/Mo

By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – International focus should be on large-scale distribution and entry of humanitarian aid into Gaza by land, but any way to deliver more aid is “obviously good,” the United Nations said on Thursday after the U.S. announced plans to build a sea port.

“Any way to get more aid into Gaza, whether by sea or airdrop, is obviously good,” said U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric when asked about the plan for a temporary port on Gaza’s Mediterranean coast to receive humanitarian assistance.

Delivery of aid by land, however, is more cost- and volume-effective, Dujarric said, and “we need more entry points and we need a larger volume of aid to come in by land.”

The U.N. has warned that at least 576,000 people in Gaza – one-quarter of the population – are on the brink of famine.

Some aid can enter Hamas-run Gaza via the Rafah crossing from Egypt and Kerem Shalom from Israel. Before the conflict, Gaza relied on 500 trucks with supplies entering daily.

The U.N. Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA said last week that an average of nearly 97 trucks were able to enter Gaza each day during February, down from about 150 a day in January. Deliveries through Kerem Shalom were blocked at times by Israeli protesters, UNRWA says.

The U.S., Jordan and France have also conducted air drops and Israel has overseen aid deliveries by private contractors.

The U.N. said a new land route to northern Gaza would be assessed on Thursday. The World Food Programme (WFP) paused its deliveries to northern Gaza on Feb. 20 due to safety concerns with its convoys exposed to attacks by crowds of hungry people.

U.S. officials have said distributing aid in Gaza has been a significant challenge because lawlessness has escalated, with criminal gangs seizing aid and reselling it.

The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said on Thursday that Israel had facilitated half the 224 planned aid missions in February to areas throughout Gaza that required coordination.

“Following Israeli naval fire that hit a U.N.-coordinated food convoy heading to north Gaza on Feb. 5, there was an operational pause and, as a result, only 24 missions were planned to the besieged north last month,” OCHA said.

“Of them, just six were facilitated,” it said, adding that of the 200 planned missions to areas in southern Gaza, 105 were facilitated by Israel.

Israel has said it is committed to improving the humanitarian situation in Gaza and there is no limit on the aid for civilians. It has blamed the United Nations for any delivery issues, saying limitations on the quantity and pace of aid are dependent on the capacity of the U.N. and other agencies.

The war began after Hamas fighters attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people and seizing 253 hostages, according to Israeli tallies. Israel retaliated by imposing a total siege on Gaza, then launching an air and ground assault that has killed around 30,000 Palestinians, health authorities in Gaza say.


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