Israel Cites ‘New Initiatives’ for Gaza Aid, but Progress Has Been Slow

Israel said Friday that it was committed to its legal obligations to provide humanitarian aid to desperate civilians in Gaza, pointing to a series of measures to deliver aid by land, air and sea. But progress on the efforts has been slow and aid groups say they are not nearly sufficient to meet the vast need in the enclave.

A day after the United Nations’ top court ruled, in its sharpest language yet, that Israel must ensure the “unhindered” delivery of assistance” to Gaza, the foreign ministry said it would continue to promote “new initiatives” and expand efforts to facilitate the entry of aid into Gaza.

Humanitarian officials have been sounding the alarm over a looming famine, especially in the northern part of the territory, where desperation has prompted people to swarm trucks carrying assistance and aid groups say they have struggled to deliver supplies because of Israeli restrictions and widespread lawlessness.

In its ruling, the U.N. court, the International Court of Justice, said Israel must take “all necessary and effective measures” to guarantee the delivery of aid, including food, water, and medicine. The court does not have any means of forcing Israel to comply with its orders, but it is the highest arbiter of international law, and its decisions carry symbolic weight.

Following urgent calls from the United States and other allies to do more, Israel has endorsed a handful of aid efforts in the last month, including a ship that carried food to Gaza from Cyprus, airdrops by foreign countries and crossings directly from Israel into northern Gaza by a small number of aid trucks.

Relief groups have accused Israel, which insists on inspecting and approving every aid delivery, of restricting the flow. Israel has at times argued that there was plenty of aid reaching Gaza, while insisting that disorganization by aid groups and diversions of shipments by Hamas were to blame for any bottlenecks.

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