Updated May 30th, 2024 at 20:40 IST

As Rafah Strikes Stifle Aid Flow, Israel Lifts Ban on Gaza Food Sales: Report

With Israeli operations in Rafah affecting the already erratic flow of aid into Gaza, Israeli officials have now lifted a ban on sale of food to the enclave.

Reported by: Digital Desk
Aid agencies have warned that Gaza is now on the brink of famine, with some parts of the enclave already experiencing the symptoms. | Image:AP
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New Delhi: In light of the ongoing challenges in getting sufficient quantities of aid into Gaza, the Israeli military has now lifted a ban on the sale of food to the enclave from Israel and the Occupied West Bank, Reuters reported, citing Palestinian officials, businessmen and international aid workers who are familiar with the matter. Ayed Abu Ramadan, the chair of the Gaza Chamber of Commerce, told Reuters that Israel has started contacting traders in Gaza regarding the lifting of this ban a week after it commenced combat operations in Rafah. 

Two Palestinian officials told Reuters that food distributors looking to take food supplies into Gaza would first pick up the supplies from trucks sent by suppliers to the Kerem Shalom crossing where the military will first examine the goods before allowing the distributors to take them into the Strip. 

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The sources quoted by Reuters emphasised that the food items would not be free goods or charitable donations but rather items that are strictly for sale. Five businessmen interviewed for the report for the report declined to provide an exact price point for a full shipment of food to Gaza beyond saying that the prices would be what it normally costs to sell in the Occupied West Bank.

They noted, however, that transport costs can push up the costs as trucks attempting to ferry goods to Gaza have to wait near the Kerem Shalom crossing for a long time as inspections are carried out. Additionally, there is also the risk of the trucks being attacked by those protesting the entry of goods into Gaza. 

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Regardless, the decision to open up food sales to Gaza marks the first time food produced in Israel or the Occupied West Bank will be allowed into the Strip, a move necessitated, as mentioned above, by the growing challenges to getting sufficient aid into the enclave as Israel continues its combat operations. 

According to data published by UNRWA, since May 6, less than 50 trucks have been allowed into Gaza, with all of the deliveries coming from Kerem Shalom as the Rafah crossing was closed. Israel launched its combat operations in Rafah on May 7. 

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As deliveries from Kerem Shalom and Rafah dried up, efforts to prop up alternative aid delivery methods, such as the US-built floating pier, have not significantly changed the situation on the ground.

Though the pier was estimated to allow the delivery of over 150 truckloads of aid when it reached full operation, this plan ran into a significant roadblock recently when the pier broke apart due to rough weather. 

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While it is now set to be repaired in Israel and then reinstalled sometime next week, aid groups have repeatedly insisted that such measures cannot substitute the potential aid flow from land crossings if Israel decided to open them up. 

The US Agency for International Development estimated that as many as 600 truckloads of aid are required to stave off the imminent threat of famine in Gaza. UNRWA data shows that the aid flow into Gaza has struggled to reach even the halfway mark in this regard, with some days seeing absolutely no flow of aid across the Rafah crossing and Kerem Shalom.

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Published May 30th, 2024 at 20:40 IST