update deskIsrael at War

US ‘flooding the market,’ as gangs in Gaza ‘monetize’ humanitarian aid

“You know that some of this assistance is going to be looted, is going to be self-distributed by desperate people, but you keep coming,” a senior U.S. official said.

A U.S. Air Force loadmaster releases humanitarian aid pallets of food and water over the Gaza Strip on March 2, 2024. Credit: U.S. Air Force.
A U.S. Air Force loadmaster releases humanitarian aid pallets of food and water over the Gaza Strip on March 2, 2024. Credit: U.S. Air Force.

The United States, which has provided $180 million in humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza since Oct. 7, is seeking “additional pathways” to get assistance into the Strip, three senior U.S. officials said on Saturday on a background call with journalists.

Three U.S. military transport planes dropped 66 bundles, with a total of 38,000 Meals Ready-to-Eat, along the Gazan coastline at sites “where we thought people would be able to best access the aid,” one of the senior U.S. officials said.

“We’re looking at the land routes. We’re looking at the sea route, we’re looking at the air route to really ensure that we’re exploring every opportunity to get assistance in,” the senior official said.

The challenge, a second senior U.S. official said, has been distribution once the 250 to 300 truckloads of assistance have gotten into Gaza.

“Distribution is what matters. If you cannot move assistance from storage facilities, from warehouses—Kerem Shalom, Rafah—out to the communities in need throughout center and south Gaza; if you cannot get aid into the north—and that has been a major challenge since October—you’re not meeting the critical needs to provide that minimal feeding that prevents famine,” the senior official said.
 
In the absence of any police presence in Gaza, lawlessness, “which was always a problem in the background, has now moved to a very different level,” the senior U.S. official said. “This is a product of, if you will, commercialization of the assistance; criminal gangs are taking it, looting it, reselling it. They’ve monetized humanitarian assistance.” 

In response to the criminal interference, Washington aims to “flood the market,” the senior official said.

“You bring in assistance from every point you can—air, sea, land—you bring it in, and you know that some of this assistance is going to be looted, is going to be self-distributed by desperate people, but you keep coming,” the senior official said.

By “flooding of the zone,” the senior official said using a sports metaphor, “you demonetize these commodities.”

“With that, you de-incentivize the criminal groups, the gangs involved in attacking trucks, and you reduce the pressure on desperate people, not criminals, who just want food—because the food is there; it’s coming in,” the senior official said.

The senior official added that the maritime “corridor” and airdrops are not instead of using as many land crossings as possible. “That’s the most efficient way to get aid in at scale,” the senior official said. “It’s the most efficient way to flood the zone.”

Hiba Nasr, senior Washington correspondent for the Saudi state channel Asharq News, asked how the officials respond to critics who say “what’s happening, and the airdrops now in Gaza, is humiliating for the United States because you weren’t able to get the aid any other way, and this is also another sign that you don’t have leverage over the Israeli government.”

“The situation on the ground in Gaza is enormously complex.  There is a campaign going on,” one of the senior U.S. officials said. “The campaign is going on for a reason. It’s because a terrorist group holding hostages, including Americans, is continuing to fight and attack. They could stop this—Hamas could—tonight, instantly, and allow the free movement of assistance, medicine, care to go to the civilians of Gaza with whom, under whom, in whose homes they have embedded themselves for these past 17 years.” 
 
“In this complex world, we’ve got to find every possible way to move assistance to those in need,” the senior official said. “The airdrops are part of that process.”

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