The US, Israel’s closest ally, is pressing Tel Aviv to allow direly-needed humanitarian aid into the beleaguered Gaza Strip, an issue Secretary of State Hillary Clinton plans to raise during her upcoming visit to the region, Haaretz reported on Wednesday, February 25.
"Israel is not making enough efforts to improve the humanitarian situation in Gaza," US officials told Israeli counterparts last week on behalf of Clinton, according to the Israeli daily.
"The US expects Israel to meet its commitments on this matter."
Clinton’s messages expressed anger at obstacles being placed by Israel before the delivery of aid to the battered Palestinian territory, hard hit by a 22-day Israeli offensive.
She made it clear to the Israelis that Gaza aid would be central in talks during her visit next week to Israel and the West Bank.
Special US envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell is also expected to issue a strongly-worded statement on the issue.
An already-alarming humanitarian crisis in Gaza exacerbated after the three-week Israeli war which killed more than 1,400 people and wounded thousands.
The onslaught, which inflicted heavy damage on Gaza infrastructure, left nearly 20,000 homes and thousands other buildings damaged.
Even before the way, the 1.6 million population of Gaza has been suffering under the yoke of an Israeli siege clamped in 2006 and tightened in since June 2007.
The Obama administration plans to offer some 900 million dollars to help rebuild the Gaza Strip through the UN and NGOs.
Clinton will formally announce the aid at a meeting next week of Palestinian donors in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.
Israeli officials are barring direly-needed food items from reaching the besieged coastal enclave.
Major General Amos Gilad issued a statement Tuesday denying reports of food shortage in Gaza.
However, an incident that occurred last week gave "a very different impression" to a senior American observer, according to Haaretz.
When Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Senate’s powerful Foreign Relations Committee, visited Gaza he learned that many trucks loaded with pasta were not permitted in.
When he inquired about the reason, Kerry was told by aid officials that Israel does not define pasta as part of humanitarian aid – only rice shipments.
The pasta was only allowed in after Kerry personally interfered with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
A senior US source dealing with aid issues on the Israeli side said Gilad has prepared a list of "humanitarian aid items" that can never be broadened.
"This is outrageous," the source told the Israeli daily.
"Why should a senior American official issue a protest on pasta in order for us to recognize that we need to allow it into the Gaza Strip?"
(IslamOnline.net and Agencies)