Apr 4, 2024 - World

Israel agrees to increase humanitarian aid delivery to Gaza under U.S. pressure

 Limited number of United Nations trucks carrying humanitarian aid for Palestinians cross Kerem Shalom border crossing after waiting for 5 days for permit in southeastern Gaza, January 29, 2024.

A limited number of United Nations trucks carrying humanitarian aid for Palestinians cross Kerem Shalom border crossing in southeastern Gaza on Jan. 29. Photo: Ahmed Zaqout/Anadolu via Getty Images

Three hours after a tough call on Thursday between President Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli cabinet approved new steps to increase the flow of humanitarian aid to Gaza.   

Why it matters: The U.S. had asked Israel to implement those steps months ago but Netanyahu, who is in a tenuous political position in Israel, has been under pressure from his political base and ultranationalist members of his coalition to limit aid into Gaza.

Driving the news: Several hours before the cabinet meeting, Biden presented Netanyahu with an ultimatum: change course regarding the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, or the U.S. will change its policy regarding the war.

  • "The president made clear we will make sure Israel isn't left without the ability to defend itself. At the same time if there are no changes to their approach we are likely to change out approach," Vice President Kamala Harris who was on the call told Tim Boyum of Spectrum News.
  • An Israeli official said Netanyahu came to the meeting with Biden with a list of steps and told the president he was going to approve them.

The latest: A senior Netanyahu aide told reporters the security cabinet approved the opening of the Erez crossing in the northern Gaza Strip for the first time since October 7.

  • The crossing was used for entry of Palestinian workers to Israel and was attacked by Hamas on October 7. Since then, Israel rejected U.S. requests to open it, mainly out of symbolism and principle because the crossing was attacked by Hamas, according to Israeli officials.
  • The opening of the crossing will make it easier and faster for organizations to get aid into northern Gaza.
  • The cabinet also decided to use the Port of Ashdod in southern Israel as a hub for the supply of aid to Gaza. Israel has opposed this move since the beginning of the war because it didn't want to provide services to Gaza anymore.
  • Another step that was approved is to allow more aid trucks from Jordan to enter Gaza via Israel every day.   

What they're saying: "We welcome the steps announced by the Israeli government tonight at the President's request following his call with Prime Minister Netanyahu," U.S. National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said in a statement.

  • They "must now be fully and rapidly implemented."
  • "U.S. policy with respect to Gaza will be determined by our assessment of Israel's immediate action on these and other steps, including steps to protect innocent civilians and the safety of aid workers," Watson said.

What's next: The cabinet also authorized Netanyahu, together with Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant and minister Benny Gantz, to take further  "immediate steps" to increase aid flow to Gaza, the Netanyahu aide said.

  • This will prevent radical right-wing ministers in the Israeli cabinet from blocking decisions regarding humanitarian aid, which they have done numerous times since the beginning of the war.
  • "Increased aid to Gaza will prevent a humanitarian crisis and is essential in order to make sure the war continue and achieves its goals," the Netanyahu aide said.

Go deeper: Tide turns sharply against Israel's war in Gaza

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