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Friday, May 24, 2024

Israel to allow flour shipments for Gaza through key port: US

The move comes days after the UN called on Israel to allow access to the port for the urgent delivery of humanitarian aid for Gaza, besieged since the October 7 Hamas attacks on Israel.

Israel will let shipments of flour for Palestinians through the Israeli port of Ashdod, north of Gaza, the White House said Friday after President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke.

The move comes days after the UN called on Israel to allow access to the port for the urgent delivery of humanitarian aid for Gaza, besieged since the October 7 Hamas attacks on Israel.

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“The president welcomed the decision from the Government of Israel to permit the shipment of flour for the Palestinian people directly through Ashdod port,” the White House said in a readout of their call.

US teams would “separately work on options for more direct maritime delivery of assistance into Gaza,” it added.

Washington has backed Israel’s offensive against Gaza since the Hamas attacks on October 7 while also calling on the Israelis to let in more aid to Palestinian civilians.

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Three UN agencies — the World Food Programme (WFP), UNICEF and the World Health Organisation (WHO) — pushed for the opening of Ashdod in a joint statement on Monday.

The use of Ashdod, located some 25 miles (40 kilometers) north of the Gaza border, is “critically needed by aid agencies,” they said, while calling for a “fundamental step change in the flow of humanitarian aid into Gaza.”

The Israel-Hamas war has sparked a humanitarian catastrophe for Gaza’s 2.4 million people, who are struggling to get food, water, fuel and medical care.

Opening the Ashdod port would reduce the time it takes to transport food to Gazans from the north, WFP’s regional director for the Middle East, Corinne Fleischer, told AFP earlier this month.

In December, Israel approved the temporary delivery of aid into Gaza via its southern Kerem Shalom border crossing, opening a new route for supplies after weeks of pressure.