newsIsrael at War

‘It’s going directly to Hamas’: At Kerem Shalom, protesters block aid to Gaza

Hundreds of protesters continue to converge on the crossing despite a military closure imposed by Israel.

Israeli protesters make their way to the Kerem Shalom Crossing with the Gaza Strip, Jan 29, 2024. Credit: Josh Hasten.
Israeli protesters make their way to the Kerem Shalom Crossing with the Gaza Strip, Jan 29, 2024. Credit: Josh Hasten.

Despite a military closure, on Monday a diverse group of hundreds of protesters from all over Israel gathered at the country’s Kerem Shalom border crossing with Gaza for the sixth day in a row, to demonstrate against the flow of humanitarian aid into the Hamas-controlled enclave. 

The demonstrators, including relatives of those murdered or kidnapped during Hamas’s Oct. 7 massacre and of soldiers fighting the terror group in Gaza, avoided police checkpoints by driving through fields and then walking some two miles to the crossing. 

Until the military closure was declared on Sunday, protesters were successful in blocking the crossing, causing massive delays and disruptions in the aid going into Gaza. However, Monday saw a significant increase in police and military presence, forcing the group to relocate to a nearby hill as the semi-trailers rolled into Gaza, unopposed. Four demonstrators were arrested for violating the closure.

The initiative to block humanitarian aid into Gaza, including food and fuel is being led by the Tzav 9 movement (“Order 9”), which is determined to protest until the very last Israeli hostage is returned home. Tzav 9 is a reference to the “Tzav 8” emergency mobilization notices received by Israel Defense Forces reservists on Oct. 7.

“Many of the trucks bear the flag of UNRWA [The United Nations Relief and Works Agency], but they are just a branch of Hamas, so the aid goes directly to Hamas. That is no way to win a war,” Rachel Touitou, a Tzav 9 representative, told JNS.

According to The Wall Street Journal, some 10% of the U.N. agency’s 13,000-strong Gaza staff have ties to Islamist terrorist groups. 

Mirit Hoffman, the English language spokeswoman for “Mothers of IDF Combat Soldiers,” representing a group of 7,000 women whose sons are serving, told JNS that her organization has been participating in the demonstrations. 

She said her group’s main message is “our soldier’s lives must be prioritized over those of enemy civilians.”

Hoffman stressed, “We fully support the IDF, and I want be very clear they are amazing and we are proud of them—those who left their jobs in order to go to war for this country. And we fully support the government and their decision to go to war until we eradicate Hamas/ISIS.

That being said, she continued, “Enabling humanitarian aid to the enemy is going to prolong the war and endanger our soldiers’ lives, and therefore we are against it. Humanitarian aid is not going to the civilians, it’s going directly to Hamas. Hamas has stated it more than once, and is very proud of it.”

To actually get the aid to those in need, she said, “They can open the border with Egypt and let the people there move out and get the humanitarian aid there.”

Hoffman said she doesn’t understand why the United States government continues to put so much pressure on Israel to provide aid. 

“If the U.S. and everybody else is so worried about the aid getting to the civilians in Gaza—most of them by the way supported Hamas—they should ensure a better way of getting it there,” she said.

U.S. President Joe Biden has repeatedly discussed the necessity for Israel to provide aid to Gaza in conversations with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Just last week, in a conversation with Israel’s Defense Minster Yoav Gallant, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin reiterated the importance of [Israel] ensuring uninterrupted delivery of humanitarian assistance to Gaza.

Netanyahu has repeatedly justified sending aid to Gaza, citing the need to prevent the outbreak of disease and a humanitarian disaster. 

But is Israel required by international law to keep its enemy’s civilian population afloat during times of war?  

According to Lt. Col. (res) Maurice Hirsch, director of the Initiative for Palestinian Authority Accountability and Reform in the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and the former director of the Military Prosecution for Judea and Samaria, the answer is clearly no.

“No country is forced to provide aid to its enemy during war. The only situation in which it could potentially be claimed that Israel has a positive obligation to provide aid would be in a situation of ‘occupation.’ Since Gaza is not under Israeli occupation, no such obligation exists,” he said.

“Having said that, Israel does have general obligation to allow the Gazan civilian population to receive essential humanitarian aid,” he continued. “However, Israel does not have to provide that aid, and Israel does not have a positive obligation to allow that aid to travel through Israel.”

The reason Israel is allowing aid into Gaza from Israel nevertheless “is to ensure that we are not causing a humanitarian crisis,” he said. “The Gazans are trapped from all sides, predominantly because of the disgraceful Egyptian refusal, shamefully accepted by the international community, to allow the innocent Gazans to flee. Many have lost their homes and sources of income. Since Israel cares more about the Gazans than anyone else, we are allowing the so-called humanitarian aid to flow, almost without impediment.”

Michael Raskas, a Ra’anana resident who had attended the demonstration at the crossing a day earlier, told JNS, “The reason I went down there is because we are at war. In a time of war, you don’t provide food and fuel to your enemy, certainly not such a cruel enemy that is holding hostages of ours, that came across our border and slaughtered over 1,200 innocent civilians.”

He added, “Never in the history of warfare has a country ever been asked to—and provided—fuel and food to its enemy. It’s insane. It’s the opposite of humane. It’s inhumane; What we are doing is providing to the enemy while they are holding our hostages and killing and wounding our soldiers. It’s immoral and inhumane to provide for your enemy while you are being attacked.

“It’s immoral of the U.S. to push for humanitarian aid while six American citizens are being held hostage in Gaza. We should all be turning up the heat, not assisting our enemy but forcing them in any way possible to release our hostages,” he said.

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