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Israel will let two fuel trucks into Gaza per day for ‘minimal maintenance’

Israel has agreed to allow two fuel trucks into Gaza per day in order to meet “UN needs”, according to an Israeli official.

The official, who declined to be identified, said the decision by Israel’s war cabinet announced on Friday came after a request from Washington, The Times of Israel and Reuters have reported.

The official said the action is intended “to enable the minimal maintenance necessary for water, sewer and sanitary systems to prevent pandemics that could spread to the entire area, hurting residents of the Strip as well as our own forces and potentially spreading into Israel as well”.

FILE PHOTO: Aid trucks arrive at a UN storage facility as the conflict between Israel and Palestinian Islamist group Hamas continues, in the central Gaza Strip October 21, 2023. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem/File Photo
Aid trucks arrive at a UN storage facility in the central Gaza Strip as the conflict between Israel and Hamas continues (Photo: Mohammed Salem/Reuters)

Israeli forces will follow the delivery of fuel to ensure it does not reach Hamas, the official added, saying that the move will give Israel “the necessary diplomatic manoeuvring room” in order for its military to “eliminate Hamas”.

The trucks are expected to pass via the Egypt-controlled Rafah crossing through the UN.

There was some criticism within the Israeli government after the war cabinet’s decision to allow a small amount of fuel into the territory.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir said the war cabinet “is leading Israel to a wrong policy.”

“So long as our hostages don’t even get a visit from the Red Cross, there is no sense in giving the enemy humanitarian gifts.”

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said allowing fuel in “is a grave mistake and contradicts the decision of the [full] cabinet.”

The move “broadcasts weakness, gives oxygen to the enemy and allows [Hamas Gaza leader Yahya] Sinwar to sit comfortably in his air-conditioned bunker, watch the news and continue to manipulate Israeli society and the families of the abductees.”

He also demanded every party in the coalition should get a representative on the war cabinet — which currently includes prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, defence minister Yoav Gallant and Benny Gantz.

Meanwhile, the opposition’s Avigdor Liberman, head of Yisrael Beytenu, tweeted: “Stop fueling the Nazis from Hamas! The statements that ‘not a drop of fuel’ would enter the Strip have turned into allowing thousands of liters unilaterally, without receiving any humanitarian gesture for our hostages.

“I call to stop this recklessness at once.”

While Israel has been allowing some aid to cross into the Gaza Strip, the besieged territory received its first shipment of fuel on Wednesday since the start of the Israel-Hamas war more than five weeks ago.

Dwindling fuel supplies in the strip has hindered the distribution of vital supplies.

The UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) said on Friday that civilians faced the “immediate possibility of starvation”.

The World Health Organisation has warned that disease is spreading rapidly as the war drags on with food and clean water supplies becoming scarce.

It comes as the UN said there would be no cross-border aid operation on Friday due to fuel shortages and the communications shutdown.

It is the second consecutive day no aid trucks have arrived in Gaza because of the lack of fuel for distributing relief.

WFP executive director Cindy McCain said nearly the entire 2.3 million population was in desperate need of food assistance.

“Supplies of food and water are practically non-existent in Gaza and only a fraction of what is needed is arriving through the borders,” she said.

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