Dec 4, 2023 - World

Israeli war cabinet expected to approve increase in humanitarian aid to Gaza

Palestinians are receiving bags of flour for humanitarian aid distribution in Bureij camp in the central Gaza Strip on November 30, 2023.

Palestinians receive bags of flour for humanitarian aid distribution in Bureij camp in the central Gaza Strip on Nov. 30, 2023. Photo: Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The Israeli war cabinet is set to approve on Monday a significant increase in humanitarian aid and fuel into Gaza, five Israeli and U.S. officials said.

Why it matters: The increase in aid would come as Israeli Defense Forces prepare to expand their ground operation into southern Gaza — a new phase in fighting that the U.S. is concerned will significantly deepen the humanitarian crisis in the enclave. About 2 million Palestinians are now located in southern Gaza after being displaced by fighting in the north.

What's happening: Since the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas collapsed last Friday, the Biden administration has been pressing Israel to maintain the same levels of aid that were being allowed into Gaza during the pause in fighting and even to increase it.

  • The Israeli military stopped the entry of aid trucks and fuel from Egypt into Gaza when fighting began again on Friday.
  • The entry of aid trucks resumed after the U.S. pressured Israel but the amount of aid was reduced. Since Saturday, Israel has allowed about 100 aid trucks to enter Gaza every day, including two trucks with fuel.

Between the lines: Israel needs U.S. backing for the expansion of its military operation into the city of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza strip, which makes it difficult to say no to U.S. requests, Israeli officials said.

  • But allowing more aid and fuel into Gaza will cost Israel a major bargaining chip for any future negotiations with Hamas on to release more hostages.

What they're saying: "Our main leverage over [Hamas' leader in Gaza] Yahya Sinwar regarding the hostages other than military pressure is the fuel. There is a concern that if we increase the amount of fuel coming into Gaza he will have no interest in negotiating a new hostage deal," a senior Israeli defense official said.

  • Two Israeli officials said this is the most serious dilemma Israel has faced since the war started when is comes to prioritizing the goal of continuing the military operation to destroy Hamas and the goal of securing the release of hostages.
  • "Giving more fuel to Gaza will mean that the Israel Cabinet chose the ground operation over the hostages," an Israeli official said.

State of play: The Israeli war cabinet is expected to convene around 1PM ET and discuss the issue of humanitarian aid to Gaza and the next phase of the ground operation in the southern part of the enclave, Israeli officials said.

  • Israeli and U.S. officials said the U.S. demand is to increase the number of aid and fuel trucks that enter Gaza to more than 200 per day in comparison to 100 trucks that entered in the days since the ceasefire collapsed.
  • The U.S. is also calling for Israel to allow 180,000 liters of fuel into Gaza — three times the amount that was allowed since the collapse of the ceasefire.

Flashback: As part of the ceasefire agreement, Israel allowed a significant increase in the number of trucks carrying humanitarian aid — about 200 per day — into Gaza. A very limited amount of aid was allowed into the enclave before the ceasefire.

  • Israel also allowed four trucks of fuel and four trucks carrying cooking gas to cross into the enclave each day during the pause in fighting.
Go deeper