Home News Despite daily pauses in fighting, lawlessness in Gaza hampers aid efforts

Despite daily pauses in fighting, lawlessness in Gaza hampers aid efforts

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One person involved in distributing aid said armed criminal gangs were operating with near-unchecked impunity in the Israel-Gaza border area where trucks must pass, carrying out daily attacks on trucks. The person described the attacks as organized and planned, rather than the spontaneous looting by desperate civilians in Gaza that plagued aid convoys in the first months of the war.

The armed attackers shot at the trucks, forced them to stop, sometimes beat the drivers, and then stole the trucks’ cargo, the people said.

And there is no one to turn to: The Hamas-controlled police force that helped ensure the passage of aid early in the war disappeared months ago after the Israeli military killed several officers, said the person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of a confidentiality agreement.

Mr Haque said the “lack of police or rule of law in the area” made the roads around the crossing very dangerous.

The number of international aid trucks reaching Palestinians in southern Gaza has dropped dramatically since Israel launched its Rafah offensive on May 7. Aid officials say only small amounts of aid have trickled in through Kerem Shalom, including what one Western aid official said were 30 trucks sent through Jordan on Monday. Even the 1,100 trucks stuck at the crossing, equivalent to the amount that entered Gaza in the first two days of the war, are a fraction of what aid groups say is needed to avert famine in Gaza.

Another crossing point, at Rafah on the Egypt-Gaza border, has remained closed since the Israeli operation began.

To make up for the shortfall, Israeli authorities began allowing more commercial cargo to enter Gaza from Israel and the occupied West Bank. Unlike UN convoys, these trucks often have armed protection to allow them to traverse dangerous terrain.

Israel suspended commercial shipments for about two weeks to try to get aid vehicles through, according to a U.S. official involved in the relief effort. But on Sunday, when no aid was moving through the road due to insecurity, Israel resumed commercial shipments, including 20 that entered Gaza, the official said.

The U.S. and Western aid officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

Gaza businessman Sayyed Abu Auf, who has delivered about three truckloads of rice to the Gaza Strip since mid-May, said he had suspended his shipments because of threats from armed gangs. He said he had paid thousands of dollars in protection money to a group of Gazans in the past to keep his trucks safe.

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