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World Health Organization Emergencies Director Mike Ryan. Alamy Stock Photo
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WHO's Mike Ryan says agreed convoy of 20 aid trucks for Gaza 'is a drop in the ocean of need'

Mike Ryan said the 20 lorries is “a drop in the ocean of need right now” in the enclave.

THE EMERGENCIES DIRECTOR of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Mike Ryan, has criticised the decision to allow a convoy of 20 trucks to deliver humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip via the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, saying it “should be 2,000″. 

The deal to allow the convoy of 20 trucks to deliver aid was brokered between Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the US President’s visit to the country on Wednesday.

Biden later secured an agreement from Egyptian president Abdel Fatah al-Sisi that he would reopen the Rafah crossing to allow the trucks to enter Gaza.

But Ryan has said that efforts to get aid across the Egyptian border – the only route into or out of Gaza not controlled by Israel – needed to go beyond the “gesture” of the first convoy.

“We need to make sure the corridor is a corridor. Humanitarian assistance needs to move every day. Twenty trucks is a drop in the ocean of need right now in Gaza,” he said.

It shouldn’t be 20 trucks: it should be 2,000 trucks.

“Hopefully this trickle will turn into a river of aid that will flow in the coming days.”

Ryan also said that Gazan hospitals ran out of fuel “days ago”.

“The fuel is gone. What’s left are tiny amounts of fuel that are being repurposed within the UN and NGO system to desperately try to provide a couple of days’ extra fuel, where that can be done,” he said.

“We passed the cliff edge long ago.”

Aid to arrive ‘in next day or so’

Today, the United Nations said the first aid delivery into the besieged enclave should take place “in the next day or so”.

Some 175 lorries crammed with desperately needed medicines, food, and water stretched into the distance at the Rafah crossing with Egypt, which has removed concrete roadblocks and is scrambling to repair the route into Gaza.

al-arish-20th-oct-2023-staff-members-from-egyptian-red-crescent-prepare-trucks-loaded-with-aid-supplies-in-al-arish-45-kilometers-from-the-rafah-crossing-egypt-on-oct-20-2023-the-egyptian-sid Staff members from Egyptian Red Crescent prepare trucks loaded with aid supplies in Al-Arish, 45 kilometers from the Rafah crossing. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Palestinians are in dire need of food and water after relentless bombing by Israel, still reeling from the bloodiest attack in its history.

Egyptian state-linked broadcaster Al Qahera News had said the Rafah crossing — the only route into Gaza — would open today, but Cairo later said it needed more time to repair roads. 

“We are in deep and advanced negotiations with all relevant sides to ensure that an aid operation in Gaza starts as quickly as possible… a first delivery is due to start in the next day or so,” the UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths said, quoted by his spokesman Jens Laerke in Geneva.

Laerke told reporters: “I do not have an exact time for when these movements will take place, of course, with the hope that they can begin as soon as possible, in a way that is safe, secure and hopefully sustained.

“We need to have the mechanism in place whereby this can be driven into southern Gaza. That does not take away from our call for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire.”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres visited the Rafah crossing to personally oversee preparations, as workmen operating bulldozers on the Gazan side battled to make the road passable.

Medicine, water purifiers and blankets were being unloaded at El Arish airport near Gaza, an AFP reporter saw, with Ahmed Ali, head of the Egyptian Red Crescent, saying he was getting “two to three planes of aid a day”.

‘Beyond catastrophic’

The UN says more than one million of Gaza’s 2.4 million people are displaced, with the humanitarian situation “beyond catastrophic” and deteriorating daily.

Refugees from northern Gaza told harrowing tales of bombs, profiteering, and extreme temperatures as whole families trekked on foot to flee the violence.

Mother of seven Fadwa Al-Najjar walked for 10 hours with her family from northern Gaza to reach a UN camp in the southern town of Khan Yunis, saying she saw cars hit by a strike on the road just in front of them.

“We saw bodies and limbs torn off and we just started praying, thinking we were going to die,” she said.

palestinians-inspect-the-damage-at-a-greek-orthodox-church-following-israeli-airstrikes-on-gaza-city-friday-oct-20-2023-ap-photoabed-khaled Palestinians inspect the damage at a Greek Orthodox church today following Israeli airstrikes on Gaza City. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

On the other side of the conflict, the full horror of what Israel suffered on October 7 and following days was still emerging, as traumatised residents recounted their stories.

Shachar Butler, a security chief at the Nir Oz kibbutz, where Hamas militants killed or kidnapped a quarter of the 400 residents, recalls more than a dozen gunmen spraying bullets indiscriminately and lobbing grenades at homes.

“It’s unimaginable,” the 40-year-old told AFP as part of a trip organised by the Israeli military.

“Anytime someone tried to touch my window, I shot him,” he said. “The people who came out got kidnapped, killed, executed, slaughtered.”

Butler estimated as many as 200 militants attacked the kibbutz, entering from three sides before going house-to-house. Homes there were still charred with burned personal belongings strewn everywhere.

Israel says around 1,500 Hamas fighters were killed in clashes before its army regained control of the areas under attack.

Israel has vowed to destroy Hamas after the Islamist militant group launched an unprecedented raid from the Gaza Strip on October 7, killing at least 1,400 people, mostly civilians shot, mutilated or burned to death, according to Israeli officials.

Hamas gunmen also kidnapped some 200 hostages including foreigners from around two dozen countries ranging from Paraguay to Tanzania. The majority are still alive, the Israeli army said Friday.

In response, Israeli bombers have levelled entire city blocks in Gaza in preparation for a ground invasion they say is coming soon. The Hamas-run health ministry said 4,137 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have died in the onslaught.

Israeli jets pounded more than 100 Hamas targets in Gaza overnight, the army said, with AFP reporters hearing loud explosions and witnessing plumes of smoke billowing from the northern Gaza Strip.

Ground invasion ‘soon’

Embracing front-line soldiers and clad in body armour, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged them to “fight like lions” and “win with full force”.

Fists clenched and voice raised, Netanyahu told cheering troops: “We will deal harsh blows to our enemies in order to achieve victory.”

Defence Minister Yoav Gallant told some of the tens of thousands of personnel preparing the ground invasion that “the order will come soon.”

Earlier today, the Israeli army announced plans to evacuate the northern city of Kiryat Shmona after days of clashes with Hezbollah fighters along the border with Lebanon.

“A short while ago, the Northern Command informed the mayor of the city of the decision. The plan will be managed by the local authority, the Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of Defence,” the military said in a statement.

Israel’s military said its forces continued to target Hezbollah targets as tensions grew along the border.

“The IDF (Israel Defense Forces) carried out a number of attacks against Hezbollah infrastructure, including observation posts,” the army said early Friday.

“In addition, IDF fighter jets struck three terrorists who attempted to launch anti-tank missiles toward Israel.”

Israeli authorities have been steadily evacuating communities across the northern frontier, as reservists and columns of tanks and armoured vehicles poured into the area. 

© AFP 2023