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GENEVA/OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Israel says aid is moving into Gaza more quickly after international pressure to increase access, but the amount is disputed and the United Nations says it is still much less than the bare minimum to meet humanitarian needs.

Israel said 419 trucks - the highest since the conflict began - entered on Monday, though the Red Crescent and United Nations gave much lower figures, with the U.N. saying many were only half full because of Israeli inspection rules.

Six months into Israel’s air and ground campaign in Gaza, triggered by Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel, the devastated Palestinian enclave faces famine and widespread disease with nearly all its inhabitants now homeless.

Aid agencies have complained that Israel is not ensuring enough access for food, medicine and other needed humanitarian supplies and the European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has accused it of using starvation as a weapon of war.

U.N. humanitarian agency (OCHA) spokesperson Jens Laerke also pointed to severe restrictions on delivery of aid inside Gaza itself last month, saying Israel had denied permission for half the convoys it tried sending to the north in March, with U.N. aid convoys three times more likely to be refused than any other.

COGAT, the Israeli military department responsible for aid transfers, denies it is hindering humanitarian relief into Gaza, saying there is no limit on supplies for civilians and blaming delays on the United Nations, which it says is inefficient.

Hamas says Israeli proposal fails to meet Palestinian demands but is under review

“Yesterday alone enough food went into Gaza to feed every single person there. The U.N. fails to distribute it and Hamas steals it,” said David Mencer, spokesperson at Israel’s National Public Diplomacy Directorate.

International pressure on Israel sharpened last week, including from its closest ally the United States, after it targeted an aid convoy, killing international relief workers.

France has said more pressure, and possibly sanctions, must be imposed on Israel to open crossings to get in more humanitarian aid.

Israel said on Friday it would open the closed Erez crossing point into northern Gaza from Israel for aid supplies, approve more Jordanian aid through the Kerem Shalom crossing in the south and temporarily allow its Ashdod port to be used for aid.

Erez, the main crossing into northern Gaza before the war, has been closed since it was destroyed on Oct. 7. Israel imposed a total blockade at the start of the war, but has gradually allowed in aid, first through the Rafah crossing from Egypt and then the nearby Kerem Shalom crossing from Israel itself.

US welcomes Israel opening more aid for Gaza; ‘proof is in the results’

None of the trucks that entered Gaza on Monday went through Erez.

Distribution problems

An increase in aid flows into Gaza over recent days has also been noted by Red Crescent officials in Egypt, who said more than 350 trucks had crossed from there into Gaza on Monday and 258 on Sunday. That was much more than in recent weeks, when the number was usually fewer than 200, they said.

However UNRWA, the main United Nations agency in Gaza, said 223 trucks had entered on Monday, fewer than half the 500 trucks it says are required daily.

In its daily situation report on Tuesday, UNRWA said “there has been no significant change in the volume of humanitarian supplies entering Gaza or improved access to the north”.

Around 500 trucks with aid and other commercial supplies were entering Gaza daily before the conflict, when the enclave was also able to produce much of its food through agriculture and fishing, both of which have nearly entirely ceased.

UNRWA communications director Juliette Touma said both humanitarian and commercial supplies were needed for Gaza because the entire population was now dependent on handouts, which was not sustainable.

OCHA spokesperson Laerke, said Israel typically counted the half-filled trucks going through an initial screening process, rather than repacked, full trucks for delivery inside Gaza.

“Trucks that go in, screened by COGAT, are typically only half full. That is a requirement that they have put in place for screening purposes. When we count the trucks on the other side, when they have been reloaded, they are full,” Laerke said.

He said a bigger problem remained distribution inside Gaza.

“Food convoys that should be going particularly to the north, where 70% of people face famine conditions, are more likely, actually three times more likely, to be denied than any other humanitarian convoy with other kinds of material,” he said.

“When you put up the statistical number of trucks going in and say ‘look at all these hundreds of trucks coming in’ and you put it against ‘look how few trucks have actually moved around with distribution’ it’s kind of an own goal, isn’t it,” he said.

Israel’s military did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Laerke’s assertion that it had restricted convoys inside Gaza.

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