Israel allows 60 aid trucks into Gaza

Ehud Barak, Israel's defence minister, yesterday agreed to allow medical aid and food supplies into Gaza through the Kerem Shalom crossing - even as Israeli military operations continued in Gaza, and Hamas militants fired rockets into southern Israel.

Crossings into Gaza from Israel have been closed for several days in line with the government’s policy of closing them down the moment a missile is launched from Gaza.

Some 60 trucks carrying food and medical supplies entered Gaza on 29 December.

A hundred more trucks were waiting to enter on 30 December. Thirty-two contain supplies from UNWRA (UN agency for Palestinian refugees) warehouses in the occupied Palestinian territory and donations of dry food (sugar, flower, rice, powdered milk) from Jordan.

Sami Mshasha, a spokesperson for UNWRA in Gaza, told IRIN: “The warehouses in Gaza are depleted; we ceased food distribution on 18 December. Even this shipment will only sustain us for a few days. We now need to deal with the matter of the security of the truck drivers given the aerial attacks, and also think how we can distribute the supplies given the heavy bombardment.”

Yael Segev Eitan, information manager at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Tel Aviv office, told IRIN: “We have received information from our Gaza office that six trucks with medical supplies, and spare parts for various items of hospital equipment, are amongst the 100 trucks. The ICRC held talks with various actors in the Israeli government, stressing the importance of keeping hospitals and medical institutions safe [from bombing], and functioning. A plane from Geneva with medical supplies and a [medical] team is due to land tonight [30 December] in Tel Aviv and we hope to transfer the supplies and the team quickly into Gaza.”

The supplies were donated by the governments of Turkey and Jordan, as well as NGOs in those countries. Israel said it would also allow five new ambulances, a donation from the Turkish government, to enter the Strip.

State of emergency in southern Israel

Over 100 mortars and missiles have been fired into Israel in the past 24 hours. Two people have been killed and hundreds injured and shell-shocked, as missiles landed as far into the interior as the city of Ashdod, barely 40km from Tel Aviv.

A state of emergency has been declared in Israel's south, covering a radius of 30km from the Gaza border. This is the first time that a state of emergency has been declared in these areas.

Over 50,000 children were ordered to stay at home as schools shut down. Fire stations and emergency services have been heavily re-enforced.

Large parts of the area near the border have been closed to journalists and declared closed military zones and censorship is heavy.