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Fearing a humanitarian crisis, the Defense Ministry is considering parachuting food into the Gaza Strip, or sending in tanks and troops to take over the Palestinian side of the Karni cargo crossing to oversee supplies.
The Karni crossing is near Kibbutz Nahal Oz and the southeast edge of Gaza City.
The army is currently using the Kerem Shalom crossing to the southern Gaza Strip to get food into Gaza. But that crossing has a very limited capacity, while Karni can handle hundreds of trucks a day. The idea would be to bring the food in and then have international organizations such as UNRWA, the World Food Program or the Red Cross distribute it.
The Defense Ministry has been working on a wide range of ideas for how to reopen the Karni crossing and get supplies to the Palestinians. The main obstacle to reopening the crossing, the Gaza Strip's principal entry point for goods, is that forces loyal to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas have fled due to the fighting with Hamas, which now controls the crossing. Israel refuses to speak or coordinate with Hamas.
The IDF is also considering asking monitors from the European Union Border Assistance Mission - who were stationed at the Rafah crossing, near Sinai, until last week's Hamas-Fatah violence - to expand their mission and take over at Karni. Alternatively, it may ask UN observers to staff the Palestinian side of the crossing, although Western officials said such a move would require the authorization of the UN Security Council, usually a long process.
Another possibility that has now been raised by the IDF is parachuting supplies in or having the navy drop them on the Gaza shore.
"Israel is not interested in a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, even though it would not be a problem of our creation," a senior defense official said. "And we expect that the various international organizations will play a role in preventing a crisis from erupting."
On Thursday, the IDF continued to provide humanitarian assistance to the Gaza Strip. One hundred foreigners and eight sick Palestinians were allowed to leave Gaza through the northern Erez crossing, and the IDF transferred hundreds of tons of basic foods, including flour, beans and pasta, via the Kerem Shalom crossing. Overnight Wednesday, 60 Palestinians holed up at the Erez crossing were transferred to Egypt.
Defense officials said the supplies being sent into Gaza were the bare minimum. They agreed with a United Nations report drafted by Kevin Kennedy, head of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which claimed that if Karni was not immediately opened, a crisis could break out within two to four weeks.
On Wednesday, Kennedy traveled to Gaza to evaluate the situation.
"It is not Darfur, Sudan or East Timor," Kennedy said Thursday at a conference in Jerusalem on "Military Transformation and Peace Support Operations."
"But there is a humanitarian crisis there of a different nature," he said.