Washington (CNN) — The US military will fly three planeloads of crucial humanitarian aid to North Sinai in Egypt to be brought into Gaza to aid civilians in the region, according to senior administration officials.
The aid that is being brought will include medical supplies, food and winter weather gear as Gaza enters its rainy season – which can be wet, cold and even lead to flooding – with countless Palestinians displaced in temporary shelters. The first of the three flights is set to arrive Tuesday.
That flight delivered more than 54,000 pounds of medical items and food aid to a logistics hub in Egypt to then be delivered to Gaza as part of efforts to provide humanitarian aid to civilians in the enclave, according to national security adviser Jake Sullivan.
The announcement comes amid a pause in the fighting between Israel and Hamas that has been extended for an additional two days to potentially secure the release of further hostages and allow increased humanitarian aid into Gaza. One official noted that this ongoing effort to help supply civilians is not linked to the ongoing hostage deal and will continue when hostilities ultimately resume.
The aid being flown in by the United States, which officials called a “significant contribution,” will be distributed by the United Nations and replenish stocks of supplies, which had been depleted as the pace of aid being brought into Gaza increased in recent days.
The effort builds upon five previous flights of aid being brought into the region on domestic planes, the officials added.
Administration officials have also been having discussions with the Israeli government over the last few weeks about not just providing basic humanitarian assistance to Gaza but moving to what they described as phase two: Getting commercial goods into Gaza. One of the officials said that the current level of humanitarian aid is not enough, and they need to reach a point where they can provide the sustained delivery of commercial goods in addition to basic humanitarian aid. They added that everyone “from the president on down” understands that what is getting into Gaza is not enough for normal life in the besieged enclave.
During the ongoing humanitarian pause, roughly 800 trucks of aid have entered Gaza, according to the officials. And over the past seven weeks, Biden and senior officials have been working “around the clock” on the humanitarian response, these officials added. This includes working to expand humanitarian access, push for restoration of essential services and secure deconfliction mechanisms for civilian sites and movement in Gaza.
The need for increased assistance is a reality that UN officials have also been emphasizing. United Nations Relief and Works Agency spokesperson Adnan Abu Hasna told CNN Sunday that the current levels of aid are “just a drop in the ocean of humanitarian needs” and that they need more supplies to operate critical services and sectors like sewage, water or hospitals.
Sullivan this past weekend detailed some of the steps that are taken in order to bring aid into Gaza.
It’s first brought through the Rafah crossing into Gaza where it is inspected by the Israelis, following which the aid trucks go to United Nations depots and other humanitarian organizations that, he said, are “vetted and trusted partners” after which it is distributed directly to civilians.
“As humanitarian assistance has ramped up, we’ve seen it work – that it’s actually getting to people and that it’s not being diverted into the hands of Hamas. But that’s something that we have to continue to focus on an ongoing basis,” Sullivan said.
In a statement on Monday President Joe Biden highlighted efforts his administration has been taking to surge this additional humanitarian aid into the Gaza strip.
“The United States has led the humanitarian response into Gaza—building on years of work as the largest funder of humanitarian assistance for the Palestinian people,” Biden said. “We are taking full advantage of the pause in fighting to increase the amount of humanitarian aid moving into Gaza, and we will continue our efforts to build a future of peace and dignity for the Palestinian people.”
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