Israel said Wednesday it would allow humanitarian aid to enter the Gaza Strip from neighbouring Egypt, while maintaining its siege on the Palestinian territory since bloody attacks by Hamas.
The devastating impact of Israel’s restrictions and constant bombardment of Gaza, home to 2.4 million people, has been a major concern among the country’s allies and became a key talking point during US President Joe Biden’s hours-long visit to Israel on Wednesday.
“In light of President Biden’s demand, Israel would not foil the supply of humanitarian aid via Egypt,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said, announcing a cabinet decision.
The statement noted aid to civilians in south Gaza would be allowed “so long as these supplies do not reach Hamas”, which rules the territory.
No timetable has been given for deliveries, but the announcement was welcomed by the World Health Organization.
“Many lives depend on this happening,” the WHO’s chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus wrote on X, formerly Twitter.
Gazans have been facing dire shortages as the territory was effectively sealed off in the wake of the October 7 attacks by Hamas militants on Israeli communities and military posts.
Those attacks and the war they sparked have claimed around 1,400 lives in Israel and 3,478 in Gaza, according to officials on both sides.
Palestinian militants also abducted dozens of people and Israel warned it would not allow aid to pass through the country to Gaza until the hostages are released.
“Israel demands Red Cross visits with our captives and is working to mobilise broad international support for this demand,” the prime minister’s office said.
– ‘Justice must be done’ –
The Israeli announcement came as Biden ended his high-stakes visit, during which he announced $100 million in assistance to Palestinians in Gaza and the occupied West Bank.
“The people of Gaza need food, water, medicine and shelter,” Biden told reporters at the end of his trip.
The US president acknowledged the Gaza aid would face “inspections” and would have to be kept away from Hamas, without specifying whether he meant the armed wing, political leaders, or government ministries operated by the group.
Biden also pledged military aid to help Israel maintain its Iron Dome aerial defence system and said he would ask the US Congress this week for an “unprecedented” defence support package for Israel.
Highlighting the deployment of US aircraft carriers to the region, he warned “any state or any other hostile actor, thinking about attacking Israel… Don’t, don’t, don’t.”
But despite Biden’s strong message of solidarity to Israel, the US leader also cautioned against going too far in seeking retribution.
“Justice must be done. But I caution that while you feel that rage, don’t be consumed by it,” he said, acknowledging mistakes made by the United States after the September 11, 2001 attacks by Al-Qaeda.