Gaza War: Gate 96, the new crossing through which aid is difficult to enter

  • Written by Lucy Williamson
  • BBC News, on the border between Israel and Gaza

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Aid trucks wait to enter Gaza at Gate 96

Gate 96 is nothing more than a hole in the Gaza border fence.

Its rugged path leads to Gaza City; A rugged lifeline, quickly lost in the thick darkness of the evening.

When the UN accuses Israel of deliberately keeping aid flows within its borders, Israel points to Gate 96 – one of several new aid routes it has approved, along with airdrops and a sea corridor from Cyprus.

Along the border fence, seven trucks loaded with food aid are lined up waiting to cross, their engines revving slowly under the occasional boom of artillery.

This new crossing point takes them directly to the desperate northern areas of Gaza, avoiding a long and difficult journey through the conflict zone.

But with the United Nations warning that northern Gaza is weeks away from famine, international demands for increased aid have become more urgent.

Israel says it has facilitated the entry of more than 350 aid trucks into northern Gaza over the past month. Relief agencies say the region as a whole needs 500 people a day.

“The bottleneck in this chain does not lie in the Israeli army [Israel Defense Forces]“Humanitarian aid is still continuing,” said Colonel Moshe Tetro, head of the army’s Coordination and Liaison Department, which handles approvals for aid convoys.

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Colonel Moshe Tetro blamed relief agencies for humanitarian relief problems

He told the BBC that the army's mission is to “facilitate the entry of humanitarian aid into Gaza” and that the obstacles lie in the logistical capacity of relief agencies to distribute it to the other side.

He pointed to the trucks waiting to cross, saying that the evidence was right in front of us. He added that twenty trucks were approved to cross that night, but only seven arrived.

“We have taken many measures to increase the volume of humanitarian aid,” he said. “But the United Nations and other international organizations are facing some bottlenecks regarding the number of trucks, the number of truck drivers, the workforce, and working hours…”

Matthew Hollingsworth, the World Food Programme's country director, was on board one of the trucks parked next to the border fence that night. He told the BBC that there was a specific reason why the World Food Program could not provide all 20 vehicles.

“In this particular convoy, we were given a maximum of 15 drivers who were vetted by the IDF and allowed to use this road, but we only had seven drivers,” he said.

He added that some of the approved drivers went to Gaza City the day before, and remained stuck there. Even driving an empty truck through Gaza requires the approval of the Israeli army.

Image source, Getty Images

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Countries are dropping aid into Gaza from the sky, but agencies say what is arriving is not enough

“We need a permit for 50, 60, 70, 80 truck drivers to use these roads every day,” he said. “We need more entry points into northern Gaza and Gaza City, and we need early approvals so we can operate multiple convoys every day.”

Israel is keen to show the world that it is allowing more aid into Gaza, but it says it is not responsible for the amount of aid that actually enters, or for the agencies' ability to distribute it on the ground.

International law says differently: It is Israel's duty not only to open the gates, but to use all means at its disposal to deliver food and medicine to the people under its control.

Colonel Tetro told me that there is no food shortage in Gaza, and that if Hamas wants to change the situation there, it must end the war.

When asked about warnings of famine, and pictures of children suffering from severe malnutrition in Gaza hospitals, he repeated the same phrases, over and over.

“There is no famine in Gaza,” he said. “There is no shortage of food.”

Gaza's main relief agency, UNRWA, said on Sunday that Israel had prevented it from delivering any more food supplies to northern Gaza.

Image source, Getty Images

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UNRWA accused Israel of deliberately obstructing aid to the Palestinians

Israel says the agency is linked to Hamas, and that it will continue to work with organizations “not involved in terrorism.”

UNRWA Director Philippe Lazzarini said the ban was “disgraceful” and accused Israel of deliberately obstructing aid.

The agency recently tried to restart convoys after a two-month hiatus, which began when one of its trucks was bombed during a delivery in January.

At Gate 96, army vehicles circle the convoy, before the crossing opens and trucks move in for the night.

This narrow channel between Israel and Gaza is only crossed by aid and the army. Bringing food, war, life and death.

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