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Israel continues to try to provide humanitarian aid to Gaza, Hamas blocks it

Jul 17, 2014 | Sharyn Mittelman

Israel continues to try to provide humanitarian aid to Gaza
Gazan child treated at the Rambam campus

With Hamas’ rejection of a ceasefire proposal on Tuesday, proposed by Egypt, backed by the Palestinian Authority (PA), the Arab League and US, and accepted by Israel, it appears the Gaza conflct will continue to the detriment of Israelis and Palestinians.

Hamas leaders sitting safely in underground bunkers clearly do not care about the continued suffering of civilians in Gaza. As a Washington Post editorial notes:

“Why would Hamas insist on continuing the fight when it is faring so poorly? The only plausible answer is stomach-turning: The Islamic movement calculates that it can win the concessions it has yet to obtain from Israel and Egypt not by striking Israel but by perpetuating the killing of its own people in Israeli counterattacks. More than 200 people, including a number of children, have already died in Gaza; Hamas probably calculates that more deaths will prompt Western governments to pressure Israel to grant Hamas’s demands.”

Hamas’ use of ‘human shields’ is now well known, with Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri reportedly telling al-Aqsa TV:

“The policy of people confronting the Israeli warplanes with their bare chests in order to protect their homes has proven effective against the occupation… Also, this policy reflects the character of our brave, courageous people. We in Hamas call upon our people to adopt this policy, in order to protect the Palestinian homes.”

Hamas’ disregard for the suffering of civilians can also be seen in its recent orders to deprive Gazans of Israeli humanitarian assistance.

On Tuesday, Hamas closed the Erez border crossing into Israel, which stranded a group of around 20 Palestinians planning to travel to Israel for medical treatment. Hamas claimed that the border was closed due to Israeli shelling, but there were no reports of shelling on Monday or Tuesday. The crossing is ordinarily open for Palestinians granted permission to enter Israel for medical purposes.

Despite the current conflict, Israeli hospitals continue to regularly provide medical care to patients from Gaza and the West Bank. As Yazid Falah, coordinator for Palestinian patients coming to Haifa’s Rambam Health Care Campus commented, “Despite the security situation, and despite the fact that both sides are fighting, all continues as usual in the realm of medical cooperation”, adding “Even in times of war we continue to receive patients and give them the care they need – children and adults.”

During 2013, Rambam’s staff treated hundreds of patients from the West Bank and Gaza, including 650 children and teenagers. Israel21C has also reported that four preschoolers from Gaza recently arrived in Israel for lifesaving cardiac care at Wolfson Medical Center in Holon through the Save a Child’s Heart project.  According to Save a Child’s Heart, it has repaired the hearts of over 3,300 children from all over the world.

Meanwhile, Israel’s Magen David Adom (MDA) emergency services organisation, the Israeli equivalent of the Red Cross, offered to collect blood for Gazans. However, the PA told the International Committee of the Red Cross that no additional support was needed at this time.

Israel also supplies electricity to Gaza despite the conflict. But on Sunday, Hamas knocked out part of its own electricity supply when a rocket fired from Gaza knocked out a power line in Israel that supplied electricity to 70,000 Gazans, according to the IDF Spokesman’s Office. The outage was caused by shrapnel from the rocket fire that hit the high voltage line that feeds electricity into Gaza, the Israel Electric Corporation said. Most of the electricity is purchased for Gaza by the Palestinian Authority (PA), which owes Israel 1.4 billion shekels (A$440 million) for unpaid electric bills.  Another rocket knocked out another power line carrying electricity to Gaza yesterday, with both strikes reducing Gaza’s power supply by some 20%.

Humanitarian aid to Gaza from Israel has also continued. On July 10, over 200 trucks of food and other basics goods and products have traveled to Gaza from Israel. Israel has also transferred 200,000 gallons of gasoline a day since the start of the operation, and medicines and medical equipment have passed continuously as well through the crossings. According to Israel, during the week of July 6-10, the following goods entered the Gaza Strip from Israel via the Kerem Shalom crossing:

3,540 tons of food
960 tons of cooking gas
520,000 liters of gasoline
932,000 liters of diesel fuel for public transport
1,591,000 liters of diesel fuel for electricity plants

1217 people received permission to cross through the Erez Crossing, including 632 humanitarian cases.

On Friday, July 11, and Sunday, July 13, the following goods entered the Gaza Strip from Israel via the Kerem Shalom crossing:
197 tons of cooking gas
72,000 liters of gasoline
410,000 liters of diesel fuel for public transport
495,000 liters of diesel fuel for electricity plant

More than 800 foreign citizens left the Gaza Strip through Israel.

Yesterday, the IDF said 65 trucks went through the crossing to Gaza carrying food and general supplies including 170 tons of natural gas, three tons of medical supplies and 643,000 litres of fuel.

Today Israel agreed to a temporary ceasefire from 10am for five hours, as requested by the United Nations, to allow for humanitarian aid into Gaza and for Gazans to obtain essentials such as food. Hamas has also reportedly agreed.

Sharyn Mittelman

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