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Besieged Palestinians await aid trucks as Israel pounds Gaza

By AFP - Oct 20,2023 - Last updated at Oct 20,2023

A smoke plume erupts during Israeli bombardment in Rafah in the southern of Gaza Strip on Thursday (AFP photo)

GAZA STRIP, occupied Palestine — Palestinians in war-torn Gaza on Thursday eagerly awaited aid trucks promised in a deal struck by US President Joe Biden with Egypt and Israel, as the army struck more Hamas targets.

The Israeli aggression against Gaza has set off fury across the Middle East against Israel and its Western allies. It has claimed at least 3,785 lives in the Gaza Strip, its health ministry said on Thursday, with entire city blocks levelled, water, food and power cut off, and more than 1 million displaced.United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged "rapid, unimpeded humanitarian access" to the besieged Gaza Strip on Thursday.

"We need food, water, medicine and fuel now. We need it at scale and we need it to be sustained, it is not one small operation that is required," Guterres said in Cairo, as calls mounted for aid to reach the territory's 2.4 million people.

"In plain terms, that means humanitarians need to be able to get aid in and they need to be able to distribute it safely."

“The pace of death, of suffering, of destruction... cannot be exaggerated,” UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths said about the situation in the crowded territory of 2.4 million people.

There are fears of worse to come if Israel launches an anticipated ground invasion.

Biden, on a flying visit to meet prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his war Cabinet on Wednesday, reiterated strong US support for its long-time ally but also stressed the need to address the plight of Palestinian civilians.

He said he had agreed a deal for an initial 20 trucks carrying relief goods to pass through the shuttered Rafah crossing from Egypt into Gaza, with the first deliveries expected Friday at the earliest.

“We want to get as many of the trucks out as possible,” Biden told reporters on Air Force One as he flew home.


Desperate to escape 


More than 100 trucks carrying aid goods have been queued for days on the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing, the only entry or exit point to Gaza not controlled by Israel.

Cairo has so far kept it closed, pointing to repeated Israeli strikes near the checkpoint and voicing fears that Israel may be hoping to permanently drive Palestinians out and into Egypt’s Sinai Desert.

On the Gaza side, scores of people were again waiting, desperate to flee, but careful to keep about 100 metres  away in case of new Israeli bombardment.

“We’re ready with our bags,” said one man who only gave his name as Mohammed, 40, and who said he works for a European institution.

He said he had been waiting “for three days with my family, in a house 10 minutes away from the crossing” but had received no information so far.

Majed, 43, who said he works with a German organisation, told AFP: “I came on my own this morning and, in case the crossing opens, I’d get my wife and children, they’re ready.”

Biden, who was due to address the nation on Thursday about the Gaza and Ukraine conflicts, announced the aid truck deal after what he called “blunt” talks in Israel and a phone call with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi.

Israel consented to the deal while pressing on with its military campaign.

Biden, the first US president to visit Israel during war time, strongly backed Israel but warned it not to overreact.

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Thursday became the latest foreign leader to make a solidarity visit to Israel, meeting Netanyahu and President Isaac Hertzog.

The Arab world has been united in anger and condemnation of Israel since a deadly strike hit a Gaza hospital compound on Tuesday.

The strike left scores of bodies and charred cars at the Ahli Arab hospital compound in northern Gaza, AFP images showed.


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