A Libyan cargo vessel weighed down with 3,000 tonnes of food, medicine, and other humanitarian goods, was barred from entering the Gaza Strip yesterday by the Israeli navy. Palestinian officials say they expect the vessel to attempt to reach the Gaza Strip again.
Andy David, a spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, defended to move, saying Israel’s policy on the naval blockade was “very clear,” He said Israeli naval ships approached the aid boat and ordered it via radio to turn back, adding “Anyone wishing to transfer humanitarian aid into Gaza is welcome to do it in coordination with Israel and through the regular crossings.”
Yet this has not been the case in recent days, after an Israeli raid on the strip earlier this month sparked an exchange of strikes and a full closure on the strip. Since then, Israel has only occasionally allowed small amounts of humanitarian aid across the border, and has expressed public outrage at the suggestions of UN officials that refusing to allow food (and officially barring the importation of shoes) into a small region inhabited by 1.5 million people was a “direct contravention of international human rights and humanitarian law.”
Israeli officials condemned concern over the humanitarian situation in Gaza as “utterly shortsighted” and have insisted that their refusal to allow basic humanitarian aid into the strip is entirely the fault of the Hamas government. The crossings were expected to open briefly last Thursday (coincidentally Thanksgiving in the United States), but the government decided against it after a rocket landed in an empty field in southern Israel, doing no damage and causing no injuries. Since then no aid has been permitted to enter Gaza by land or, as witnessed today, by sea.