IDF Focuses on Humanitarian Aid in Gaza

The IDF’s 99th Division began defensive and offensive missions in the Gaza Strip in late April. (IDF)

The Israel Defense Forces are focusing on humanitarian aid entering Gaza ahead of a possible offensive against Hamas in the southern Gazan city of Rafah. The focus on improving the humanitarian situation in Gaza has increased since March when Israel began to shift its forces in Gaza ahead of and during the Ramadan holiday. The shift has taken place amid international pressure, an increase in the number of crossings into Gaza, as have the number of methods of distributing humanitarian aid.

On April 28, IDF spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said that “over the last few weeks, the amount of humanitarian aid going into Gaza has significantly increased. In the coming days, the amount of aid going into Gaza will continue to scale-up even more food, water, medical supplies, shelter equipment and other aid; more of it is going into Gaza than ever before.”

Aid intended for northern Gaza is increasingly arriving via a new crossing opened by Israel and is coming through Israel’s port of Ashdod. “As part of the efforts to get more aid into Gaza, we are also expanding the designated humanitarian zones in Gaza, where the aid will be reaching and streamlining the distribution efforts, together with international aid organizations, for increased efficiency.” This may enable more people to return to northern Gaza from areas such as Rafah, where they fled in October and November 2023 after the Hamas attack on Israel.

The latest shift will pick up steam in May, seven months into the war in Gaza. This will likely include the planned deployment of a floating pier that the US is building off the coast of Gaza. On Thursday, April 25, the IDF said that it “has approved collaborative efforts for the new Joint Logistics Over-the-Shore (JLOTS) initiative led by the United States Central Command (CENTCOM). The initiative will create an enhanced ship to shore distribution system to increase the flow of humanitarian aid into Gaza.” US Navy and Army ships began construction of the pier in the last days of April, after a month and a half journey by several US Army vessels which crossed the Atlantic and Mediterranean to reach the coast of Gaza. The new humanitarian efforts are supposed to increase the number of trucks entering Gaza by up to 150 trucks a day. Over the last month, around 300 trucks a day have entered Gaza via various crossings.

The IDF also said on April 27 that it has been clearing an area of 67 acres in Gaza in order to receive containers from the maritime route to Gaza that should become operational with the US-built floating pier. “Work has been carried out to prepare to receive the floating pier and to organize the space for receiving humanitarian aid in Gaza,” the IDF said. The IDF’s Engineering and Construction Directorate in the Ministry of Defense as well as the IDF’s Southern Command and Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories are all leading this effort in cooperation with the US.

As the humanitarian zone in Gaza expands, the IDF is also continuing its operations along the Netzarim corridor which separates Gaza City from central Gaza. The IDF’s relatively new 99th division is now operating in the Netzerim corridor. It uses a new unit called the Multi-Dimensional unit, which incorporates new technology such as drones and precision mortars in its maneuvers. “The operations are taking place while protecting the area of ​​the Central Gaza Strip Corridor and while taking steps to facilitate the transfer of humanitarian aid,” the IDF said on April 28.

This humanitarian zone in southern Gaza along the coast has now expanded into Dier al-Balah so it is now closer to the Netzerim corridor. It is not clear what ramifications this will have on IDF operations or where civilians currently in Rafah may move to if an IDF operation is to occur there in May. The IDF said on April 28 that “getting aid to the people of Gaza is a top priority —because our war is against Hamas, not against the people of Gaza. We seek to help alleviate the suffering of the civilians in Gaza that has resulted from the war that Hamas started on October 7th, when it massacred and kidnapped Israelis.”

Reporting from Israel, Seth J. Frantzman is an adjunct fellow at FDD and a contributor to FDD’s Long War Journal. He is the acting news editor and senior Middle East correspondent and analyst at The Jerusalem Post. 


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