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22nd Feb 2024

EU calls for increased fuel supplies into Gaza

  • A potential maritime corridor from Cyprus could increase humanitarian aid to Gaza in the long term (Photo: UNRWA)
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The EU has called for an increase in fuel supplies to Gaza, and a faster screening process for trucks crossing the Rafah border.

EU commissioner for crisis management Janez Lenarčič identified both as primary bottlenecks in delivering humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip, where the situation is "catastrophic" and "humanitarian needs have exploded".

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The remarks come amid a ceasefire that has been welcomed by the Slovenian commissioner, who hoped for more extended pauses — in line with the UN resolution from 15 November.

"Never before have so many humanitarian aid trucks entered Gaza," Lenarčič told a group of reporters in Brussels on Tuesday (28 November).

"[The] truce helps a lot," he also said, referring to the surge in additional assistance to civilians that has taken place during the last few days.

The four-day truce, which entered into force on Friday 24 November, was extended for two more days on Monday.

The extension was described by the UN chief António Guterres as "a glimpse of hope and humanity in the middle of the darkness of war."

The humanitarian pause has allowed aid trucks to bring relief to Gaza's population of 2.3 million, ensuring Palestinians have some access to food, water, and medical supplies.

And it also allows aid to reach the north of the Strip for the first time since it was sealed off by Israel weeks ago, the UN said.

According to Lenarčič, allowing inspection procedures for trucks at additional border crossing points could increase the capacity of aid.

He also warned that increased inflows of fuel supplies are crucial for the operations of ambulances, water stations, hospitals, and telecommunications as well as for trucks to distribute supplies across the entire Gaza Strip.

Israel banned the supply of fuel to Gaza when it launched its military campaign in Gaza following the Hamas attacks on 7 October.

In response to a request from the US, Israel decided in mid-November to allow the entry of 140,000 litres of fuel into Gaza every two days. But "this is not sufficient," the commissioner warned.

Meanwhile, Lenarčič said that the EU welcomes efforts to operationalise a potential maritime corridor from Cyprus' port of Larnaca to Gaza as an alternative route that would help boost humanitarian aid in Gaza.

The fact that Gaza doesn't have proper seaports poses obvious challenges, but Cyprus could also ship aid to countries neighbouring Palestine (e.g. Egypt) once security conditions are met, diplomatic sources told EUobserver. A potential offshore platform is also under consideration.

The proposal for a maritime corridor from Cyprus, which aims to become a medium and long-term support for aid in the region, has the political endorsement of Israel and EU countries, the diplomat also said.

Proportionality?

When asked about the respect of international law in the Middle East, Lenarčič questioned whether Israel is acting with "proportionality" in Gaza, where more than 15,000 civilians have been killed in about 50 days of conflict.

But he fell short of clearly stating that Israel had violated international humanitarian law, pointing out that the ultimate decision lies with judicial authorities, such as the International Criminal Court (ICC), which has jurisdiction over war crimes in Palestine.

The ICC has an ongoing investigation into war crimes committed in Palestine since 2021, which extends to the latest events that have taken place since 7 October. Israel, however, does not recognise the court's authority.

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