Nov 17, 2023 - World

Israel approves daily entry of fuel into Gaza after U.S. pressure

Officials of the United Nations (UN) Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) bring fuel to solve fuel shortage at Al-Nasr Hospital in Khan Yunis, Gaza on November 10, 2023.

Officials of the United Nations (UN) Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) bring fuel to the Al-Nasr Hospital in Khan Yunis, Gaza on Nov. 10. Photo: Abed Zagout/Anadolu via Getty Images

The Israeli war cabinet late Thursday approved a plan to allow the entry of fuel into the southern Gaza Strip from Egypt following strong pressure from the Biden administration, two Israeli and U.S. officials said.

Why it matters: It is the first time since the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attack that Israel will allow a significant amount of fuel into Gaza on a regular basis.

  • Israel earlier this week allowed a limited supply of fuel to be used to refuel trucks the UN uses to deliver humanitarian aid. The UN said, however, it wasn't near enough to fulfill the needs in Gaza.
  • A senior Israeli official said the decision will allow Israel to get the "international maneuvering space needed to destroy Hamas."

Driving the news: About 60,000 liters of fuel will be allowed to enter the Strip through the Rafah border crossing every day in two UN fuel tankers and will be delivered under UN supervision to civilian facilities in southern Gaza, an Israeli official said.

  • "This decision is meant to allow the operation of water, sewage and sanitation systems in southern Gaza in order to prevent the spread of disease that will harm the civilian population," the Israeli official added.
  • According to a second Israeli official, the amount of fuel that will enter the Gaza Strip is still pretty limited. Before the war, nearly 7 million liters of fuel entered the enclave every week.
  • The two Israeli officials said the IDF will monitor the supply of fuel to make sure it doesn't reach Hamas.
  • The first fuel delivery took place on Friday, according to an Israeli official.

Behind the scenes: Two U.S. officials said Israel promised the Biden administration at a high level two weeks ago that it would allow fuel into Gaza.

  • But as time went on without the fuel, anger mounted in Washington and pressure built on Israel to fulfill its commitment, two U.S. officials said.
  • Secretary of State Tony Blinken, U.S. humanitarian envoy David Satterfield and other senior Biden administration officials spoke about the need for fuel with Israeli officials several times in recent days, accourding to the sources.
  • Ahead of a meeting of the Israeli war cabinet on Thursday, Blinken pressed the Israelis again. He called Ministers Benny Gantz and Ron Dermer, Netanyahu's close confidant, and told them the U.S. expects the cabinet to approve the fuel supply, the U.S. and Israeli officials say.

A senior U.S. official said Israel wanted to allow fuel in as part of a hostage deal but the Biden administration made it clear Israel can't wait for such a deal to emerge while people in Gaza could be dying because of shortage of fuel.

  • The U.S. official said the fuel supply will enable the operations of sewage facilities, bakeries, hospitals and communications infrastructure to resume.
  • "It will have a big impact on the humanitarian situation in Southern Gaza," the official said.

Between the lines: Ultra-nationalist far right Ministers Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir slammed the decision to allow fuel into Gaza and claimed the war cabinet had no authority to do make it.

  • Shortly after, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced he is convening the full security cabinet on Saturday night to discuss the fuel issue and approve the overall policy.
  • Israeli national security adviser Tzachi Hanegbi said at a press conference that the war cabinet approved the U.S. request so that Gaza sewage facilities that were on a brink of collapse could operate.
  • "We wanted to prevent the outbreak of disease in Gaza,” Hanegbi said.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with additional details.

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