December 19, 2023 | Flash Brief

Israel Expands Aid Access to Gaza

December 19, 2023 | Flash Brief

Israel Expands Aid Access to Gaza

Latest Developments

Israel opened the Kerem Shalom border crossing on December 17 to allow aid into Gaza, marking the first time this crossing has opened since Hamas’s October 7 massacre. Previously, all aid arrived in Gaza through Egypt. Israel started screening convoys at Kerem Shalom in mid-December to help with congestion, but the trucks had to return to Egypt before entering the Gaza Strip. The Israeli government approved the passage of aid directly through Kerem Shalom on December 15, citing the “urgent security need” to increase deliveries “beyond what [Egypt’s] Rafah crossing can accommodate.”

U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan welcomed the decision to open Kerem Shalom on December 15, noting that “President Biden raised this issue in recent phone calls with [Israeli] Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.” Sullivan also said the crossing “was an important topic of discussion” during his visit to Israel on December 15.

Expert Analysis

“Israel opened the Kerem Shalom to increase aid to the people of Gaza with the full knowledge that Hamas will surely take the lion’s share of whatever assistance is sent into the enclave. Over 130 hostages remain in Gaza and have had no contact from the Red Cross in over 70 days; Hamas has murdered at least 20 Israelis in captivity. Despite Hamas’s abhorrent terror tactics, Israel is allowing humanitarian aid to flow through the crossing to alleviate the suffering of Gazan civilians, making it clear that this war is against Hamas and not the people of Gaza.” — Enia Krivine, Senior Director of FDD’s Israel Program and National Security Network

“While providing aid to Gaza is undoubtedly a necessary and just act, it is disheartening to witness how Hamas consistently exploits innocent civilians and misappropriates these crucial resources for its own benefit.” — Joe Truzman, Research Analyst at FDD’s Long War Journal 

Israel’s Humanitarian Focus

Israel has repeatedly stressed that it is fighting against Hamas terrorists, not against civilians. Israel permitted fuel to enter Gaza on November 15 despite evidence that Hamas siphons the fuel for its military purposes. On November 14, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) offered to coordinate the transfer of incubators to Gaza’s Al-Shifa Hospital. IDF spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said on October 27 that “hundreds of terrorists flooded into the hospital to hide” after Hamas attacked Israel on October 7. 

The IDF has also taken steps to mitigate civilian casualties. An Israeli spokesman said on December 8 that Israel had identified approximately 150 shelters in Gaza where civilians will be safe from Israeli strikes. Additionally, Israel designated the coastal area of al-Mawasi as a safe zone. The IDF refrained from operating in al-Mawasi even after Hamas fired rockets from the area on December 7. On December 1, the IDF published an interactive map that divides Gaza into individually numbered blocks, and the IDF continues to notify civilians which areas it will target.

Hamas Puts Palestinians in Harm’s Way

Hamas continues to use civilians as human shields and prevent Gazans from seeking shelter. In October, mosques in Gaza broadcast messages telling civilians to stay put despite IDF instructions to flee south in advance of Israel’s ground offensive. On October 14, the IDF published imagery showing that Hamas had established a physical roadblock to prevent civilians from reaching safety. Meanwhile, Hamas embeds military assets in hospitals, schools, and other civilian areas. On December 17, the IDF announced that it found three tunnel shafts near a school administered by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, as well as machinery for building rockets in a nearby building.

Israel Creates Maps of Gaza Strip to Aid Civilian Evacuations,” FDD Flash Brief

IDF Reopens Humanitarian Corridor in Gaza,” FDD Flash Brief

Israel Allows Fuel to Gaza Through Egyptian Border,” FDD Flash Brief

Hamas officials admit its strategy is to use Palestinian civilians as human shields,” by Natalie Ecanow


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