You turn to us for voices you won't hear anywhere else.

Sign up for Democracy Now!'s Daily Digest to get our latest headlines and stories delivered to your inbox every day.

Aid Worker in Gaza: The Only Barrier to Delivering Supplies Is Israel. The U.S. Must Pressure Its Ally

Media Options

Palestinians in Gaza marked the first day of Ramadan on Monday amid rising hunger and desperation, with Israel continuing to restrict aid shipments into the besieged territory. United Nations officials have complained that even basic items like medical scissors have resulted in trucks being stopped by Israeli forces at the border. This comes as countries such as the United States conduct dangerous airdrops of essential supplies and have announced plans to build a pier off the coast of Gaza to deliver aid. “It’s going to be more simple, more realistic and more efficient if the United States has pushed the Israelis to allow the aid truck to go into the north of Gaza and Gaza City,” says Yousef Hammash, advocacy officer with the Norwegian Refugee Council, speaking to us from Rafah. “The only issue that we are facing on delivering the aid on the ground is the restrictions the Israelis put on it.” Hammash also describes “living day by day” amid “madness, violence [and] bombardment.”

Related Story

StoryApr 19, 2024Over 100 Arrested at Columbia After Univ. President Orders NYPD to Clear Pro-Palestine Student Protest
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

We turn now to Gaza, where Al Jazeera is reporting Israeli forces have killed at least nine people who were waiting for aid in Gaza City. Twenty injured people were taken to Al-Shifa Hospital.

This comes as Israel continues to restrict aid coming into Gaza, which is on the brink of famine. The U.N. is reporting one truck was recently denied access to Gaza because it contained scissors inside medical kits. UNRWA head Philippe Lazzarini criticized the decision, saying, quote, “Medical scissors are now added to a long list of banned items the Israeli Authorities classify as 'for dual use.'” He went on to say, “The list includes basic and lifesaving items: from anesthetics, solar lights, oxygen cylinders and ventilators, water cleaning tablets, cancer medicines and maternity kits,” unquote.

Meanwhile, an aid ship bound for Gaza has set sail from Cyprus with 200 tons of food supplies. The UAE-funded mission was organized by two aid groups, World Central Kitchen and Open Arms.

Inside Gaza, Palestinians marked the first day of Ramadan Monday.

For more, we go directly to Rafah to Yousef Hammash. He is advocacy officer in Gaza for the Norwegian Refugee Council.

Welcome back to Democracy Now! Thank you so much for joining us, Yousef. Can you explain what’s happening on the ground right now? Talk about the issue of famine and hunger, and what you think needs to happen.

YOUSEF HAMMASH: First of all, thanks for hosting me again and giving me the chance.

And, unfortunately, since we last spoke until now, nothing have changed, only except for the worse. More families have been displaced by the ongoing bombardment all across Gaza. Situation in Rafah has deteriorated day by day. We are not able to fulfill the basic needs for families here. People are scattered in the streets everywhere. So, it’s an unimaginable situation for displaced families in Rafah. And we have a different situation for the middle area and the northern part of Gaza, which, unfortunately, even from media, is kind abandoned, while families and children are on the verge of a famine, and over 25 people were killed from hunger.

The situation in Gaza is going into unclear vision in the horizon. We don’t understand what’s coming next. All what we are having is a daily basis of madness, violence, bombardment and a death toll that’s increasing on a daily basis. And unfortunately, so far we are not seeing any real intervention from outside so at least we could have a glimmer of hope that this will end soon.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Yousef Hammash, how do you respond to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s claim denying that there’s starvation and alleging that it is groups under Hamas in Gaza that are preventing the delivery of aid?

YOUSEF HAMMASH: I work for the Norwegian Refugee Council, and we operate on the ground, mainly in Rafah currently, because we don’t have any access for the northern part of Gaza. And we didn’t see any evidence related to this allegation. All what we are looking for is open the checkpoints, the Israel restrictions that have been put to split Gaza into three pieces now. And we don’t have access to Khan Younis now, and there is no access to Gaza City and the northern part of Gaza. And we are talking about over half a million who are trapped there, dying to fulfill their children’s basic needs.

People have — we had the first day of Ramadan yesterday. And I was reaching out for friends and colleagues in the northern part of Gaza, and I was trying to understand exactly what they could find to have iftar, merely a piece of bread with tea. The situation in the south is also chaos and chaotic and getting worse every day. But in the northern part of Gaza, people are literally on the verge of famine. People are dying to find a piece of bread there.

And it’s unacceptable that we could — we start to put these allegations here and there. There is a need on the ground that’s very clear. If we go to social media, media outlets, wherever you go, you could see exactly what’s going on there. So, it’s unrealistic, and it’s unacceptable, actually, just to ignore and deny that there is a famine in the north.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go to Khalil Abou Ziyada, a Palestinian currently in the Al-Shati Camp in Gaza.

KHALIL ABOU ZIYADA: [translated] My feeling is that of a person who was displaced from his house. I’m 71 years old, and I have never experienced Ramadan with this feeling. It’s an awful feeling. At times like this during Ramadan, I used to prepare the dining table to eat at sunset. But today there’s no food, and I don’t have money to get food for iftar at sunset.

AMY GOODMAN: So, Yousef Hammash, the United States, President Biden, has been authorizing the dropping of food, airdropping it — five people were killed, crushed to death by a malfunctioning parachute that was carrying one of the food drops — and now has proposed this pier, where they say they’ll get food in, unclear how, considering what Israel has been doing. All of their ports of entry or all of their crossings are closed and not allowing food to come in from Rafah. Why would the pier be any different, especially given that the U.S. continues to provide the bombs and the ammunition that is dropped on the Palestinians?

YOUSEF HAMMASH: That’s what make it you don’t understand exactly what’s going on. First of all, any help to feed even one single family or one single child in the northern part of Gaza or Gaza or in the south is very welcome and much appreciated. But let’s go be realistic. Spending all of these efforts building the port or airdropping, which is not efficient, unfortunately — and you have mentioned exactly what happened in that incident killing five people. And imagining that all of media show all of that, what we saw related to the airdropping, was less than two aid trucks.

Why the United States didn’t use its influence to its closest ally, while it’s weaponizing them, and using that influence in a proper way to force them, to impose on them to remove restriction on aid? And it’s going to be more simple, more realistic and more efficient if the United States have pushed the Israelis to allow aid trucks to go in to people in need in the northern part of Gaza and Gaza City. And imagine the distance between Rafah crossing and the northern part of Gaza is half an hour by drive. So, why we need to spend all that amount of effort building a seaport or airdropping, while we have a realistic option that’s put in front of us, but there is just some restriction by the Israelis? And so, that’s what makes it unimaginable, why we are going to that option, while already we have different options on the ground, and it’s still in place, running and functioning in place since almost the beginning of this chaos. The only issue that we are facing in delivering the aid on the ground is the restriction that the Israelis put on it for Gaza City and the northern part of Gaza.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Yousef Hammash, how are you faring, your family and your own children, under these conditions? What kind of aid do you have access to?

YOUSEF HAMMASH: In Rafah, there is kind of affordability. But, unfortunately, the prices also are not affordable somehow. There is some people who could get some of the food items, especially into Rafah. Again, there is kind of availability, but, unfortunately, the inflation of prices make it unaffordable for the majority of the families here.

We are living day by day here. Our cycle of life is one day. We fulfill our basic needs as responsibles toward our children and extended families, and then we will look for the next day. As an example, yesterday, I had to search, after my working hours, up to the iftar timing, just to look for some vegetables, and I couldn’t find it. Maybe I was late, because there is one million and a half are in Rafah, this 55 square kilometers, and we are competing to find food for our families.

AMY GOODMAN: Yousef Hammash, we thank you so much for being with us, advocacy officer in Gaza for the Norwegian Refugee Council, joining us from Rafah.

The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.

Next story from this daily show

U.N. Rapporteur Francesca Albanese Urges Arms Embargo & Sanctions on Israel over War Crimes in Gaza

Non-commercial news needs your support

We rely on contributions from our viewers and listeners to do our work.
Please do your part today.
Make a donation