Gaza aid checks at Kerem Shalom being tested, crossing not open: UN official

A new process for inspecting aid for Gaza at the Kerem Shalom crossing is being tested, but efforts to get permission for trucks to enter through the crossing and ramp up relief are still ongoing, a senior UN official told Reuters on Saturday.

Under the new system, trucks would come to the Kerem Shalom crossing on the border between Israel, Gaza and Egypt for the first time from Jordan, before entering Gaza from Rafah, about 3 kilometers (1.86 miles) away.

But the trucks would need to be allowed to enter Gaza directly through Kerem Shalom to alleviate an increasingly desperate situation in the coastal enclave, said Carl Skau, deputy executive director of the UN World Food Program.

Israel has so far rebuffed pleas from the United Nations and others to open Kerem Shalom, but they both signaled on Thursday that Kerem Shalom could soon help process delivery of humanitarian supplies into Gaza.

Until now, limited quantities of aid have been delivered from Egypt through the Rafah crossing, which is ill-equipped to process large numbers of trucks.

Trucks have been driving more than 40 kilometers (24.85 miles) south to Egypt’s border with Israel before returning to Rafah, leading to bottlenecks and delays.

A process to test the inspection system at Kerem Shalom for trucks arriving from Jordan is underway, said Skau, who visited Gaza on Friday.

“It’s good, it’s useful because it would also be the first time that we can then bring in a pipeline from Jordan. But we need that entry point as well because that would make all the difference,” he said in an interview.

“If you get that open, then it’s just a matter of how much is available and how much can be absorbed on the other side in an orderly fashion, but then certainly that capacity would not be the issue,” he added.

“We have front-loaded with our internal resources so that we have food available in Egypt and in Jordan to reach some 1,000,000 people in one month. We are ready to roll. The trucks are ready to move.”

Skau said the situation inside Gaza was increasingly chaotic as people grabbed what they could from aid distribution points, with larger numbers of people displaced southwards close to the border with Egypt and aid trucks at risk of being stopped by desperate residents if they even slow down at an intersection.

“There is a question for how long this can continue, because the humanitarian operation is collapsing,” he said.

“Half of the population are starving, nine out of 10 are not eating every day. Obviously the needs are massive.”

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