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UN aid chief says second aid convoy for Gaza could lead to sustained relief


© An aid truck arrives at a UN storage facility as the conflict between Israel and Palestinian Islamist group Hamas continues, in the central Gaza Strip October 21, 2023. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

By Aidan Lewis

CAIRO () – The United Nations is hoping a second convoy of trucks will be sent into Gaza on Sunday under a light inspection system that will allow relief deliveries to scale up into next week, its humanitarian chief said.

A first convoy of 20 trucks arrived in Gaza through the Rafah crossing with Egypt on Saturday, but efforts to deliver supplies to the besieged enclave have been held up by Israeli demands to verify aid.

The 20-truck convoy was announced by U.S. President Joe Biden following a trip to Israel on Wednesday and was not subject to inspection of the kind that officials say will be needed for continuous deliveries.

“I’ve been hearing this afternoon – but we’re in negotiation on it right now – that we may get another convoy tomorrow, maybe even slightly bigger, 20 to 30 trucks,” U.N. aid chief Martin Griffiths said in an interview on the sidelines of a conference about Gaza in Cairo.

“It’s incredibly important that there is no gap in the aid going across the border,” he said. The U.N. says 100 trucks daily are needed to meet essential needs in Gaza, where Israel has imposed a “total siege” as it bombards the enclave in retaliation for a deadly incursion by Hamas militants.

Rafah is the main route in and out of the Gaza Strip that is not controlled by Israel, which has said it will allow no aid to enter from its territory until Hamas releases the hostages it took during its attack on Oct. 7.

It says aid can enter through Egypt as long as supplies do not end up in the hands of Hamas.

“What needs to happen crucially is that we agree, and we are in discussion, tough but fair discussion, with the Israelis on a verification regime,” said Griffiths.

“We need from tomorrow to build up a light, efficient, random hopefully, inspection system that will not slow things down,” said Griffiths, comparing the type of possible system to that used in Gaziantep to send aid from Turkey into Syria.

The Israelis “need to decide which agencies from their own government system are involved in the inspection, and we need to be able to persuade them that a light inspection system works,” he said, adding that a system for tracking the use of fuel, which was not included in Saturday delivery but is needed for hospitals and water provision in Gaza, was also under discussion.

Griffiths said he was encouraged by statements of financial support at the Cairo conference for “what we would like to think by say the middle next week is an aid operation that the people of Gaza can rely on”.

Aid officials said the humanitarian crisis facing Gaza’s 2.3 million residents is dire.

“It’s a lot of people and they are in serious trouble. As you know the health system is on its knees. Water is running out. People are talking about only drinking dirty water,” Griffiths said.

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