Gaza Aid Stuck at Sealed Crossings

Sitting in the cab of his truck under the hot sun, Sayed Sorour has come to the conclusion he and his truck load of aid to the besieged people in Gaza Strip are going no where for more days to come.

"I have been sitting here for three days, and before that I was in Arish for four days," the truck driver told the New York Times on Wednesday, January 28.

Sorour, whose vehicle is hauling clothing and blankets, is among many truck drivers stuck at El-Auja crossing between Egypt and Israel.

The normally quiet commercial crossing has been turned into a parking lot of stalled, humanitarian aid, carrying loads of foodstuff and humanitarian aid to Gazans who survived an air, sea and ground Israeli offensive.

"The trucks get to Auja and they sit,” said Ahmed Oraby, head of the Red Crescent office in El Arish.

"Many trucks that left are now coming back. They don’t take anything."

From the first hours of the Israeli onslaught, which killed more than 1,350 people, and wounded 5,450 others, thousands of tons of humanitarian aid were offered by Arab and Western countries and tens of relief organizations around the world.

Israel, however, has allowed very little aid into the strip, under persistent calls from aid and relief groups.

In the Egypt’s El-Arish city, there are even greater quantities of food, clothing and essential supplies sitting, waiting and baking in the sun.

"We have trucks we loaded up five days ago still sitting here, waiting," Hany Moustafa, who manages El-Arish stadium, said.

Israel closed all the crossings into Gaza on Tuesday after an Israeli soldier was killed in a bombing on the Israeli side of the border.

But that changed nothing at the crossing, where the flow has been stalled for days.

There are five crossings into Gaza – four from Israel and one from Egypt. However, none are open in a regular or consistent way.

Why

Just like the rest of truck drivers, Abdullah has been stuck in a line outside the stadium in El Arish for 24 hours.

Abdullah, however, is not as lucky as his colleague Sorour whose tractor-trailer is filled with clothing and blankets.

"All our lunchmeat, it’s all going to go bad,” said Abdullah.

"Nobody is telling us anything. Not Egypt. Not Israel. Nobody explains to us why we are stopping here," Sorour fumed.

Officials and volunteers in Egypt blame the Israelis, saying that even before the passage stalled Israel had allowed supplies to pass through for only 19 hours each week.

Israeli officials said that Egypt had not done enough to coordinate the flood of aid coming to Gaza.

But relief officials affirm that the only victims in the situation are the Gazans who have been under a stifling Israeli blockade on the impoverished territory of 1.6 million since July 2007, following Hamas’s seizure of power.

Food in Gaza is already scarce due to price increases and the lack of currency, and the destruction of farmland is exacerbating food shortages, according to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

UN humanitarian chief John Holmes said on Tuesday that now after the Israeli offensive, far more than the usual movement of aid is needed urgently.

"We can’t really perform that operation fully, none of the (UN) agencies will be able to do that, unless the crossing points are open on a sustained basis," Holmes told reporters at the United Nations.

"Enough will always be allowed in for people to exist, but not enough for the conditions for people to live."
 
(IslamOnline.net and newspapers)

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