Aid to Gaza: Setting up a port will take time

U.S. Department of Defense spokesman Pat Ryder said Friday that the port could take up to two months to set up. Meanwhile, Ryder said, America will significantly expand overland deliveries. This is a very effective way to provide assistance to a distressed area. Airlifts of relief supplies also continued.

The Israeli military has agreed to coordinate a temporary naval dockyard with US forces. Military spokesman Daniel Hagari said on Saturday that humanitarian aid could reach Gaza by sea after Israel's due diligence. International organizations will then distribute relief supplies.

In any case, he added, the war against the terrorist organization Hamas will continue until its military capabilities are destroyed. The US government announced on Thursday that a temporary port would be set up to bring food, water and medicine into the war zone in response to the humanitarian emergency in Gaza.

Open question on the EU corridor

Apart from preparing a temporary port facility on the coast of the Gaza Strip, the international community is also working on establishing a sea route through which aid supplies from Cyprus will reach ports near Gaza in Egypt or Israel. “We are now close to opening the corridor – this Saturday, this Sunday,” EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a meeting with Cyprus President Nikos Christodoulidis on Friday.

However, according to Israel, there are many open questions regarding the transportation of goods to the Gaza Strip.

Deadly cargo

Meanwhile, the problem of air-dropping relief supplies was obvious. Five people died on Friday when a load fell from the sky after their parachutes did not open properly. The Hamas-controlled Ministry of Health confirmed this at the request of a DPA employee at the scene of the accident. Videos on social networks showed the huge aid package falling to the ground practically unchecked.

The US denied responsibility for the incident. “Contrary to some reports, this is not the result of the fall of the United States,” the Central Command military command responsible for the region said on Saturday night. “We send our condolences to the families of the victims.” Jordan said it was irresponsible.

Aid agencies are calling for more effective deliveries by land and hinting that Israel will prevent trucks from entering the Gaza Strip. Israel denies this and accuses aid agencies of being inefficient in distributing supplies.

UNRWA is getting funding again

In order to reduce the burden on the public, Sweden and Canada have joined the UN. Payments to the Palestinian Relief Agency (UNRWA) continued on Saturday. UNRWA's efforts to address allegations against some of its staff and implement measures to improve monitoring and accountability are recognized.

Several countries, including Austria, halted payments to UNRWA after the Israeli government in January alleged that about a dozen of the organization's 13,000 employees in the Gaza Strip were involved in an October 7 attack by Hamas. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has in the past called the allegations credible and promised a comprehensive investigation — two separate investigations are underway.

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A lack of payments sees the UNRWA employer assistance system on the brink of collapse. “The agency is in mortal danger, it is in danger of being dissolved,” Philippe Lazzarini told Swiss broadcaster RTS. This means that the fate of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip is at stake.

Hard edges in cease-fire negotiations

Humanitarian organizations are also calling for an immediate ceasefire to provide relief to civilians affected by the bombing. Secret talks on a ceasefire and the release of Israeli hostages from Hamas stalled on Thursday without a resolution. They should continue at the beginning of the week. The United States, which is mediating the talks along with Egypt and Qatar, blames Hamas' intransigence for the lack of a deal.

Hamas spokesman Abu Obaidah reiterated the Islamists' position. “Our highest priority in bringing about a prisoner exchange is that the aggression against our people will end and the enemy will withdraw,” he said in a video message.

However, the mediator's proposal, accepted by Israel, called for a six-week ceasefire and the start of a hostage exchange for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. Only during this ceasefire should negotiations begin on measures leading to a permanent cessation of hostilities. Israel has so far shown no intention of withdrawing from this phased plan.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office on Saturday accused Hamas of blocking the talks. Israel has been in contact with mediators to “minimize differences and reach an agreement,” but it said Hamas was not interested in doing so.

Biden was impatient

America, Israel's most important ally, is losing patience. “It looks tough,” US President Joe Biden said Friday, referring to the ceasefire. The previous evening, he had called for an “immediate” six-week armistice in the US Congress.

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Biden sharply criticized Netanyahu's intransigence in his State of the Union address on Thursday. “I say this to the leadership in Israel: Humanitarian aid must not be a secondary consideration or a means of pressure. Protecting and saving innocent lives should be a priority.

Concern over Ramadan violence

Many expected a ceasefire agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas ahead of Ramadan, which begins on Sunday. Concerns are now high about escalating violent clashes in Jerusalem and the Israeli-occupied West Bank, especially after Hamas called for its supporters to march en masse to the Al-Aqsa Mosque on Jerusalem's Temple Mount. “May the blessed month of Ramadan (…) become the maximum ripple on the streets and fronts inside and outside Palestine,” Obaida said. Hamas calls the October 7 attack on Israel “Al-Aqsa Alai”.

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