Source: CNN

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday announced more than $400 million in new humanitarian aid for Palestinians in Gaza as he again called on Hamas to accept a ceasefire proposal that he described as the most effective way to address the humanitarian devastation.

The top US diplomat, speaking at an emergency humanitarian aid conference in Jordan, also called on nations to give more aid to support those in the war-torn strip.

The humanitarian situation on the ground in Gaza has become catastrophic over the eight months of Israel’s war against Hamas. The Israeli government has restricted access and items that have been able to make their way into the strip. Humanitarian aid organizations have had to contend with a destroyed infrastructure inhibiting their ability to deliver the critically-needed aid, and aid workers have been caught in the crossfire.

“The crisis in Gaza is immense,” Blinken acknowledged.

“Only one third of the current United Nations appeal is funded. That leaves a shortfall of approximately $2 billion to $3 billion. Every country can help fill this gap. Yet some who expressed great concern over the suffering of the Palestinian people in Gaza, including countries with the capacity to give a lot, have provided very little – or nothing at all,” Blinken said without naming specific countries. “It is time for everyone, everyone, to step up.”

The new $404 million in funding from the US will go toward “food, safe drinking water, health care, protection, education, shelter, and psychosocial support,” according to a media note from the State Department.

In his remarks Tuesday, Blinken said that “particularly in recent months, Israel has taken some important steps to open more crossings, to address obstacles to the delivery of assistance, but it can and must do more.”

“As we conveyed directly to the Israeli government, it is crucial to speed up the inspection trucks and reduce backlogs, to provide greater clarity on and shorten the list of prohibited goods, to increase visas for aid workers and to process them more quickly, to create clearer, more effective channels for humanitarian groups to deconflict with IDF operations, to surge life-saving medicine and equipment, to provide everything necessary to repair water and sanitation systems,” he said.

“And Israel must take further steps to reduce civilian casualties, even as it confronts an enemy that started this war with the barbaric slaughter of civilians on October 7,” Blinken said.

Despite Blinken’s claims about the “important steps” taken by the Israeli government, humanitarian workers say that the situation on the ground has only worsened, particularly as the Israeli military has stepped up operations in Rafah, where millions of Palestinians previously fled. Blinken himself acknowledged in his remarks Tuesday that “more than a million people have been displaced from Rafah alone, in the last month alone – many of whom had already been uprooted multiple times.”

“The situation is back to one of the lowest points, which is quite shocking at this point,” said Arnaud Quemin, the Middle East director at Mercy Corps.

There was an “ecosystem” for humanitarian aid work in Rafah – some non-governmental organizations and UN agencies provide logistical facilities, others provide transportation, “everybody works together to make that possible,” he described to CNN. But with the Israeli military operation happening since the beginning of May, “it could not function anymore, it just ground to a halt.”

International officials and humanitarian workers have described the situation in Gaza as unprecedented in its complexity and scope. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said at the conference Tuesday that “the speed and scale of the carnage and killing in Gaza is beyond anything in my years as Secretary-General.”

The top US diplomat in his remarks stressed that the US sees Hamas as the sole obstacle to a ceasefire that would alleviate the humanitarian suffering.

“Today, as we gather, one, and only one, thing stands in the way of the deal happening, and that’s Hamas,” he said. “So my primary and first message today to every government, to every multilateral institution, to every humanitarian organization that wants to relieve the massive suffering in Gaza: get Hamas to take the deal.”

Others also emphasized the need for a ceasefire in order to enable humanitarian work.

“The status quo cannot hold. Without a political agreement supporting a ceasefire, the humanitarian assistance system is pushed to a point of collapse,” said Mirjana Spoljaric, the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, at the conference on Tuesday.

This story has been updated with additional reporting.

See Full Web Article