Despite government efforts, hundreds of Israeli protesters have made their way to the Kerem Shalom border crossing every day for more than a week to demonstrate against deliveries of humanitarian aid to the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.
Last week, the Israel Defense Forces designated the area a closed military zone to curtail the now-daily gatherings. Nevertheless, the protests have continued.
The protesters, many of whom are relatives of Hamas hostages or IDF soldiers fighting in Gaza, say that food, water and fuel are stolen by Hamas once they arrive inside the Strip.
Among the protesters at Kerem Shalom on Monday was Noga Alfasi, whose 56-year-old aunt, Maya Goren, was murdered in captivity by Hamas.
“I did not come here to starve the [Gazan] people, and I did not come to abuse the people. And I think I even came here for the Gazans [in a way]. If we just go ahead and give aid and spread this whole thing, the war won’t end,” Alfasi told JNS.
“My aunt was kidnapped from a kindergarten. That’s not humanitarian. They murdered her…and that’s not humanitarian,” she continued, stressing that information about her aunt’s death came from Israeli intelligence and not from Hamas. “And that is not humanitarian” either, she added.
Under the terms of a temporary ceasefire in November, Hamas was supposed to return all the captive women and children, alive or dead, but Goren’s body remains in Gaza.
“If this aid is…out of mercy, then I don’t understand who the mercy is for,” said Alfasi.
Another protester, Rina Ariel, explained to JNS why she traveled from Kiryat Arba to participate.
“To come to these protests is the most important contribution we as the home front make to the war effort,” she said. “The hostages must be released, under conditions that shouldn’t harm anyone or weaken the State of Israel. Our hearts cry for the hostages, and we are stopping aid to Gaza to make it clear that there will be no aid until they are released.”
At a Saturday evening press conference, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters that a degree of aid was necessary to continue the war, to free the hostages and oust Hamas from Gaza.
“Without the minimum amount of humanitarian aid, we will not be able to complete the mission and the objectives of the war,” said Netanyahu.
Humanitarian aid arriving from Egypt or Israel is inspected by Israel at either the Kerem Shalom crossing, where the Israeli, Gaza and Egyptian borders converge, or at the Nitzana border crossing with Egypt, which is 26 miles south of Gaza.
After inspection, the trucks are routed to Egypt’s Rafah border crossing with Gaza. Following Hamas’s Oct. 7 attacks, Israel closed Kerem Shalom for security reasons.
Israelis have been protesting at Nitzana too.
On Sunday, Israeli reporter Elchanan Groner tweeted from Nitzana a photo of a delivery certificate on one of the trucks indicating a shipment of flour that had arrived via Ashdod, with “UNRWA” as the client.
The UN Relief and Works Agency, which supports Palestinian refugees, is under fire following revelations that agency staff participated in the Oct. 7 massacre. Citing Israeli intelligence, The Wall St. Journal reported on Monday that as much as 10% of the agency’s staff have ties to Islamist terror groups. As a result, the United States and several other Western countries have suspended funding to the agency.
“On the one hand, Israel is conducting a campaign against UNRWA and on the other hand, it supplies them with flour and supplies for the enemy who massacred us,” tweeted Groner.
According to Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), 88 trucks were inspected at Nitzana on Sunday. That day’s deliveries included 70 tons of food, 440 tons of water, 210 tons of medical supplies, and 425 tons of other items. Four tankers of cooking gas and two tankers of fuel designated for the operation of essential infrastructure also entered Gaza.
COGAT is a unit within the Israeli Defense Ministry that coordinates civilian issues between the Israeli government, military, international organizations and the Palestinian Authority.
Egypt’s Rafah crossing is not equipped to handle large numbers of commercial deliveries. Before Oct. 7, commercial deliveries to the Strip were routed directly through Kerem Shalom.
The protests have been organized by a group calling itself “Order 9.” The name is a reference to the Israel Defense Forces’ Order 8 emergency mobilization notice for reservists.
At least 1,200 people were killed in Hamas’s attacks on Israeli communities near the Gaza border on Oct. 7. The number of men, women, children and soldiers held captive in Gaza by Hamas is believed to be 136.