US pressures Israel even harder: aid routes to Gaza opened

Henry

Israel announced on Friday it would allow “temporary” relief deliveries to northern Gaza, just hours after the US warned of a sharp change in its policy on the war there.

In a tense half-hour long phone call on Thursday, America’s pres. Joe Biden told Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, that American policy on Israel rests on the protection of civilians and relief workers in Gaza – the first indication of possible conditions attached to Washington’s military support.

Hours later, in the middle of the night in Jerusalem, Israel announced it was going to open more aid routes to the blockaded Gaza area.

Israel’s war cabinet approved “temporary” deliveries of relief aid via the Ashdod port and the Erez crossing, as well as increased deliveries from neighboring Jordan and the Kerem Shalom crossing, Netanyahu’s office said.

The White House quickly welcomed the move, labeling it “at the request of the president” and saying the steps must now be “quickly and fully implemented”.

Israel is under increasing international pressure over the toll its six-month war against Hamas is taking and is increasingly coming under rebuke from its biggest ally, Washington.

Since the October 7 attacks that sparked the war, Israel’s counteroffensive has claimed the lives of at least 33,037 people, a figure attributed to the Hamas-run health department in Gaza.

There is also growing concern about worsening and catastrophic famine in the region.

Since January, Palestinians in northern Gaza have had to survive on an average of a mere 245 calories per day; it is less than a can of beans, said the organization Oxfam.

Charities also repeatedly accuse Israel of frustrating relief efforts and targeting convoys. Aid workers are trying to stem the tide of growing famine. This week it became clear just how dangerous their work is after seven volunteers who were distributing food aid in Gaza were killed in an Israeli attack.

“The attacks on humanitarian workers and the overall humanitarian situation are unacceptable,” Biden told Netanyahu, according to the White House.

Biden also made it clear that “American policy on Gaza is determined by our assessment of Israel’s immediate actions” to improve the humanitarian situation.

Biden, a big supporter of Israel, is under increasing pressure – in an election year – about his reaction to the war in Gaza. His allies are pushing him to make the billions of dollars that Washington sends in military aid subject to Netanyahu, who is keeping the situation under control.

John Kirby, spokesman for the US National Security Council, confirmed Biden’s “growing frustration” with Netanyahu and also emphasized that US support for Israel’s security is not inflexible.