Despite Israel’s daytime pause in fighting, hope for aid still fragile around critical border crossing

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Nisreen Ramadan Abu Kashif, 48, gathered her nine children to venture down the road in Khan Younis to look for food on Monday. 

Most of the children walked barefoot, but their mother was focused on their empty stomachs.

After nearly nine months of the Israel-Hamas war and very little aid making it into Gaza, she worries about feeding her family. Every day, each child carries their own pot — small ones for the younger siblings and larger ones for the eldest — while navigating dusty rubble, in hopes of cobbling together their next meal. 

“We were living off the aid that came through the border, and now, there’s no border,” Abu Kashif told Mohamed El Saife, a freelance videographer with CBC. “The situation is more than terrible.” 

The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) said Sunday it would halt its military operations from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. local time along the stretch of the road that includes the Kerem Shalom border crossing and the Salah al-Din highway, a major north-south road. The pause, which it said began Monday, is meant to get aid into the strip.

The border crossing has become a major pipeline for aid since Israel expanded its operations in Rafah last month.  

However, despite the brief reprieve, aid organizations said they’re still running into significant barriers trying to enough get water, food and supplies to those in need.

The military later clarified the pause would not stop the fighting in Rafah, once a place of refuge for hundreds of thousands of Palestinians.

“We created this creative solution in order to make sure that the international organizations are feeling safe to provide the distribution of humanitarian aid from the Kerem Shalom crossing,” IDF spokesperson Daniel Hagari said in an interview with CBC News on Monday.

“We are fighting Hamas, not the people of Gaza…. We will continue to facilitate humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza.”

The flow of UN aid in the devastated Palestinian territory has been heavily squeezed since Israel’s operation began in Rafah, the key gateway into Gaza from Egypt. Israel is coming under mounting global pressure to ease the crisis as humanitarian agencies warn of looming famine.

Jens Laerke, a UN spokesperson, told The Associated Press on Sunday that Israel’s announcement was welcome, but that “no aid has been dispatched from Kerem Shalom today,” with no other details. Laerke said that the UN hopes for further concrete measures from Israel, including smoother checkpoint operations and regular entry of fuel.

WATCH | Abu Kashif describes the struggle to find enough food in Gaza: 

Gaza’s aid situation ‘more than terrible,’ woman in Khan Younis says

Nisreen Ramadan Abu Kashif says she’s worried about feeding her family and fears that aid organizations can’t keep up with demand. ‘I wonder from where do I secure food and water for them,’ she told freelance journalist Mohamed El Saife.

Abu Kashif said water is hard to come by in Khan Younis — even seawater.

“All of the Palestinian people are suffering from a lack of entry of the aid because they closed the [Rafah] border.”

Israel has said it hasn’t limited humanitarian supplies for civilians in Gaza. It has blamed aid organizations for failing to deliver, or Hamas for intercepting shipments to fuel its own operation against Israel.

UNRWA, the main organization delivering aid to Gaza, said it received a notification from the Israeli military about the daytime pause, but that it was in English only, and was soon followed by the government contradicting that instruction.

“There has been information that such a decision has been taken, but the political level says none of this decision has been taken,” UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini said in a news conference in Oslo on Monday.

“So for the time being, I can tell you that hostilities continue in Rafah and in the south of Gaza. And that operationally, nothing has changed yet.” 

WATCH | Gaza aid has slowed to a trickle: 

Gaza aid has slowed to a trickle

Aid trucks are not getting into Gaza, strangling food, water and medical supplies. Some truck drivers avoid areas where Israeli settlers attack aid trucks while Egypt and Israel blame each other for keeping the main Rafah crossing into Gaza closed after Israel captured it a week ago.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday criticized the plans for a pause.

An Israel-Hamas agreement to end the war still appears distant, eight months in, despite international pressure on both sides to accept a ceasefire deal. Israel’s military campaign has killed more than 37,000 people in Gaza, according to the local health ministry, and laid waste to much of the enclave.

Israel launched its assault after Hamas-led fighters killed some 1,200 people, by Israeli tallies, in a surprise attack on Oct. 7.

Back in Khan Younis, Abu Kashif lined up at a local soup kitchen, her only option in the strip for food. Two men stirred the contents of the pots over an open fire. They were serving a vegetable soup.

“The organizations can’t keep up with the needs of the kids and the needs of the residents,” she said. 

“I’m very worried.”



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