The Israeli government has a long list of goods which it doesn’t allow into the Gaza Strip for security reasons. Things like shoes and clothing. Food and medicine are not on the list, but that has not helped humanitarian groups from delivering these items to the strip, which is under virtually unprecedented isolation in recent weeks.
Israeli police arrested three people and seized a truck full of supplies today as part of an effort to halt a boat from ferrying protesters and food aid from Jaffa to the Gaza Strip. Police say they were enforcing a law banning Israeli civilians from entering Gaza for their own safety. The same law was the basis for arresting Haaretz reporter Amira Hass last week, who came to the strip on a previous boat.
After pressure from the Israeli government, the Qatari government also halted a separate aid ship, which was scheduled to deliver some $2 million worth of cancer medication to Gaza. Israel defended the move as part of a policy “to maintain the siege placed on Hamas government in Gaza.”
The Israeli government had previously allowed several aid ships into the strip, but seems to be taking its policy of cutting off the 1.5 million residents of Gaza from basic humanitarian supplies far more seriously recently. Last week the Israeli navy forced a Libyan cargo vessel full of food and medicine from landing in the strip as well, insisting that anyone who wants to transfer aid to Gaza should do so “in coordination with Israel.”
Yet since sealing the strip late last month, Israel has not allowed any humanitarian supplies into the strip at all, including the shipments generally coordinated with the United Nations. UN officials have complained that the total cutoff is a “direct contravention of international human rights and humanitarian law.” Israel has insisted that the UN position is “utterly shortsighted” and has repeatedly threatened a military invasion of the strip to punish the Hamas government.