IDF: Gaza humanitarian aid up ninefold

IDF Humanitarian aid to

Humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip has increased by close to 900 percent in 2009 compared to the previous year, the head of the IDF's Gaza Coordination and Liaison Administration, Col. Moshe Levi, said Monday. The aid is supplied by various international organizations - the International Red Cross, UNRWA, WFP - and is imported into the Gaza Strip via the Kerem Shalom Crossing near the Egyptian border. "We are investing major resources to enable the flow of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip," Levi said during a tour of the Erez Crossing. Last week, the Palestinians opened a corridor connecting the outskirts of Gaza City with the Erez Crossing. This way, Palestinians on their way to Israel will be sheltered from rain when walking to the crossing. To facilitate the construction of the corridor, the IDF permitted the transfer of building materials to the Gaza Strip. In the first half of 2008, international organizations transferred 606 trucks into the Gaza Strip. In the first half of 2009, the number of international aid trucks jumped to just over 5,300. In total in 2008, Israel facilitated the transfer of 15,275 trucks into Gaza. By the end of last month, the number had already reached over 17,750. In addition, since the beginning of the year, the IDF has issued over 18,500 permits for Palestinians to leave Gaza and enter Israel or travel overseas. The IDF has also allowed this year over 4,000 Palestinians into Gaza for medical treatment together with 3,600 escorts. Levi denied reports that there was currently a humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip. "The situation there is stable," he said, adding that the publication of the Goldstone Report, which accused Israel of war crimes, had not had an impact on Israel's humanitarian aid to Gaza. "Our efforts continue with [or] without such a report," he said. Levi also said the IDF was in the process of permanently shutting down the Nahal Oz fuel depot due to the continued terror threat against the crossing. During Operation Cast Lead, IDF troops discovered a massive smuggling tunnel that Hamas was building directly beneath the crossing, used to transfer different types of fuel to the Gaza Strip. Since the operation, the Defense Ministry has invested in building a new fuel depot in the southern Gaza Strip, near the Kerem Shalom cargo crossing. Despite Levi's claim that humanitarian aid is on the rise, in recent reports, the United Nations has complained of Israel's refusal to allow raw materials required for construction into Gaza. A senior officer said Israel was cautious when approving the transfer of cement to Gaza, since it was used by Hamas in some cases to rebuild military infrastructure.