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Report from Rafah: U.S. Airdrops Food to Gaza While Arming Israel to Drop Bombs

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The death toll from Israel’s assault on Gaza has surpassed 30,000 as health officials say at least 16 Palestinian children have died in recent days from starvation and dehydration. UNICEF is warning the number of child deaths will likely “rapidly increase” unless the war ends. As Palestinians desperately seek aid being withheld by Israel, officials have accused Israeli forces of attacking crowds gathered to retrieve the little humanitarian supplies entering the besieged territory. Live from Rafah, Gaza-based journalist Akram al-Satarri shares his brother’s account of surviving an Israeli attack while attempting to secure food for his kids. “It looks like the objective is to continue the starvation of the people of Gaza and to kill them when they dare to think that they can secure something to feed their children,” says al-Satarri, who reports that U.S. airdrops of aid are doing little to relieve the suffering of millions in Gaza while U.S. military aid supports Israeli attacks. “In one hand, they are providing people with food, and in the other hand, they are providing people with death.”

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We begin today’s show in Gaza, where Palestinian health officials say at least 16 children have died in recent days from starvation and dehydration as Israel’s assault continues. UNICEF warns the number of child deaths will likely “rapidly increase” unless the war ends.

Palestinians in Rafah searched Sunday under the rubble of a family home hit by an Israeli airstrike the night before that killed as many as 14 people, including a father and twin babies born in the last few months.

PALESTINIAN WOMAN: [translated] We want the United States to get away from us. We don’t want anything from them. We don’t want anything from the United States. They are lying and conspiring against us. God is my suffice and the best deputy.

AMY GOODMAN: Here in the United States, Vice President Kamala Harris Sunday called for a ceasefire in Gaza. She made the comments in a speech in Selma, Alabama, marking the 59th anniversary of Bloody Sunday.

VICE PRESIDENT KAMALA HARRIS: And given the immense scale of suffering in Gaza, there must be an immediate ceasefire, for at least the next six weeks, which is what is currently on the table. This will get the hostages out and get a significant amount of aid in. This would allow us to build something more enduring to ensure Israel is secure and to respect the right of the Palestinian people to dignity, freedom and self-determination. Hamas claims it wants a ceasefire. Well, there is a deal on the table. And as we have said, Hamas needs to agree to that deal. Let’s get a ceasefire. Let’s reunite the hostages with their families. And let’s provide immediate relief to the people of Gaza.

AMY GOODMAN: Vice President Harris spoke three days after the United States blocked a U.N. Security Council statement condemning Israel after Israeli soldiers opened fire on Palestinians seeking aid in Gaza City, in a massacre that left at least 118 people dead. On Sunday, officials in Gaza accused Israeli forces of killing and wounding dozens more aid seekers who had gathered at the Kuwaiti roundabout in Gaza City. Facing growing international criticism, President Biden Friday announced the United States would begin airdropping food aid into Gaza.

Negotiations for a temporary ceasefire faced another setback Sunday when Israel boycotted talks in Cairo after Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu accused Hamas of failing to provide a list of all living Israeli hostages.

Meanwhile, Israeli war cabinet minister Benny Gantz is in the U.S. for what’s being described as an unauthorized trip to hold talks with Vice President Harris, Tony Blinken and other top officials. Gantz is seen as a rival to Netanyahu, who reportedly lashed out at Gantz for making the trip without his approval.

All of this comes as the official death toll in Gaza has topped 30,500.

For more, we go to Rafah for an update from Akram al-Satarri, the Gaza-based journalist.

Akram, your brother was at the aid convoy when Israeli soldiers opened fire. What did he explain to you happened, what’s being now called the flour massacre, for the flour that people were coming to get to make bread?

AKRAM AL-SATARRI: Good morning, Amy.

Yes, indeed, my brother was one of the people who were targeted by the Israeli tanks and artillery fire in that area of al-Rashid Street, particularly al-Nabulsi roundabout, when they were trying to seek food for their children. To start with, it is the very personal story of my brother in mind, who was in direct contact with me, seeking to secure any help whatsoever for his children. He was taking that unsafe trip towards al-Nabulsi roundabout. He was waiting there. He was waiting from 3:00 in the afternoon. He was hoping that he would get at least some wheat flour for his children, because they have not eaten bread for around 25 days or even more than 25 days. He saw many people there coming from the Gaza north, as well, in the hope that they can secure some food for their children.

All of a sudden, the bombardment started — not the bombardment; rather, the tanks’ gunfire started. And, of course, the tanks are using 1.5-millimeter caliber guns, and those guns are very lethal. They can split a person into two halves. The fire started. The tanks never stopped shooting at them. And the observation that was — the observation that was made by the people who were there, including my brother, that the number of the tanks that were present in that particular time was [inaudible], in the sense that in the last few days they knew tanks were like there, but not in the large number that was in that particular day. The fire started. The fire never stopped. People were shot. People were falling on the ground. People were running. And some of the wounded people were grabbing the legs of the other people, asking them to save and help them. The ones even whose legs were pulled were shot, as well, and were killed. So, people were crawling. My brother told me that he was crawling for around 1.5 kilometers, from this al-Nabulsi roundabout up to al-Shalihat roundabout, which is an area that is around 1 kilometer or 1.2 kilometers far away from the area that they were in. The firing never stopped.

And to him, it looked like that was preplanned and that the massacre that was planned, according to the description of my brother and any other people, was intentional. And the firing never stopped 'til that very large number of people were killed. And a very large number of people also was injured. Some of them are dying every day. And this specific incident was replicated the day after this massacre took place and the day, three days or even four days after that. So it looks like this is a policy that is followed by the Israeli occupation army, and it looks like the objective is to continue the starvation of the people of Gaza and to kill them when they dare to think that they can secure something to feed their children. So they were killed when they're trying to get the wheat flour. They were killed while they were seeking life.

AMY GOODMAN: So, the Israeli military says it started a preliminary review and that Israeli forces did not attack the convoy, but that most of the fatalities were caused by a stampede. At the same time, the director of the Al-Awda Hospital told the United Nations some 80% of the wounded brought into the hospital had been shot. If you could respond further, Akram?

AKRAM AL-SATARRI: Well, according to the preliminary diagnoses of the hospital and of the people who were there, most of the people who were there were suffering from upper body parts injuries, which is indicative of the gun that was used, of the fire that was used against them. Some were hit also by shrapnel because of the — by artillery fire that was hit at them.

Of course, if I were Israel or if I were the occupation, I would tell the world that I have already started a preliminary investigation, and they might also [inaudible] came from us, and shoot the Palestinians, who were not using any arms and who were seeking to feed their children. That’s typical. That’s normal. This is the Israeli habit. They will say — because they targeted the Baptist Hospital, and they also said that was not them, that was an Islamic Jihad rocket, missile, that hit the people and killed around 600 people. That’s normal.

But the issue now, if the international community is failing to compel Israel to conduct a scrutiny into the things that happened, I think the international community failed before and is still failing to stop the ongoing atrocities and is helping somehow. When they are condoning the ongoing bombardment, they are failing to do justice for the people of Palestine, and they are failing to observe the international humanitarian law coordinates — the international humanitarian law dictates, that asks the government to take whatever precautions are needed to protect the civilian population, civilian population that is living in Gaza, extremely difficult conditions [inaudible] food [inaudible]. They were not [inaudible] in a fire exchange. They were seeking food for their families and for their children and for themselves, and they ended up being killed.

So, Israel will deny. And I wouldn’t be surprised also if Israel said that they were killed by other Palestinians. That is a scenario, I think, that is extremely acceptable for Israel. And Israel allies would buy anything from Israel. So, no need. The ones who were killed are just Palestinians, Palestinians who were treated as second-grade humans, who are still besieged, who are still starving, who are still killed, who are still displaced for around second or six or seven or eight times, and who are expecting more of the misery and the death and displacement.

So, the international community is failing, and I don’t think the Palestinians trust any statements made by the Israeli army about any preliminary investigation, because there were many preliminary investigations to be done, but they were never done, and there was many justice that is expected to be done for the Palestinians but was not done.

AMY GOODMAN: Akram, if you can comment on the United States working with the Jordanian Air Force, dropping 38,000 ready-to-eat meals, largely on the beach in Gaza? If you can respond to — we just played clips of mass protest, that there was protest around the world, but one person in Washington, D.C., commented on the fact that while the U.S. is providing, is dropping this food, they should stop providing Israel with the bombs they drop on Palestinians.

AKRAM AL-SATARRI: The clear analysis of this situation when it comes to the cause-and-effect relationship between Israel and the misery that the Palestinians have been living, the United States and the misery that Palestinians have been living, three C-103 planes were dropping food on the Palestinians, while countless number of F-16s, F-15s, F-22s and F-35s, also with the most advanced technology and with the ammunition that are provided by the United States to the Israel — so, in one hand, they are providing people with food, and in the other hand, they are providing people with death, taking their lives.

I think the United States should be reconsidering its position when it comes to providing Israel with killing ammunitions and thinking that they are providing people in Gaza with around 35,000 or 36,000 meals that are ready to eat. The Palestinians might not be able to eat them. And some of the airdropped assistance that was dropped in Gaza went to the sea. And one of the people that I was talking to, he was joking and mocking the whole situation we are living in. He was saying the fish is very grateful for the American administration because they dropped the food that was sent to Gaza to the fish in the Gaza Sea. And I think a president that is dropping the aid for the Ukrainians while the Gaza is the target is, in a way — needs to reconsider everything about that, and they need to make sure that they provide unhindered access through the recognized crossings of Gaza for the people who are displaced, in the Gaza south and in the Gaza north. So, somehow, it’s — Palestinians find it ridiculous. Palestinians find it a way that needs to be reviewed and changed.

AMY GOODMAN: What word are you getting of ceasefire negotiations? And also, what is happening on the ground where you are, in Rafah, right now? Al Jazeera reporting at least 11 were killed, 50 wounded, after an Israeli air attack on a tent housing displaced people next to an entrance to a hospital in Rafah city, not far from where you are standing.

AKRAM AL-SATARRI: Well, the negotiations are still underway. It looks like Israel has some demands to make. Some of them were not agreed upon in the past, but now they are coming up with them. Palestinians don’t have high expectations when it comes to the negotiation.

Palestinians are extremely busy now trying to survive because of the expansion of the ground operation. In Khan Younis area, they have already targeted — the Israeli occupation targeted Hamad City area and also the al-Qarara area, which is an expansion of the ground operation that has been already starting in Khan Younis for the last — have been already rolling in Khan Younis for the last three months. The Israeli occupation forces targeted a tent by a hospital in the Rafah west area, and they also targeted a home. The number of people who were killed in Rafah for the last 24 hours is more than 50 people in different incidents taking place in different parts of Rafah.

So, the misery is continuous, and the bombardment is continuous. And the number of Palestinians who are killed because of that and the number of people who are displaced because of that is increasing, I would say, by the second, not by the minute.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, has the negotiating team boycotting the negotiations now in — the ceasefire negotiations in Cairo, because he says Hamas has refused, as part of the deal, to provide the list of living hostages. Your thoughts on this and where these negotiations stand?

AKRAM AL-SATARRI: As a matter of fact, that — I’ve been following the news about this from the Israeli media sources and from the Palestinian media sources, as well. That specific request was not made by the Israeli security forces, security agencies in the past. Now Netanyahu is inventing something new for the sake of just continuing the delay.

It looks like this delay is taking place for some purely political reasons where Netanyahu is interested in prolonging the war. They have disputes. They have issues. One of the top leaders is now in the U.S.A. Netanyahu is busy calling Blinken and calling other people, telling them that it is an unauthorized trip. It looks like there is something that is internally happening in the Israeli political arena that Netanyahu wants to stop and prevent from happening. And that’s why everything that he wants to do eventually reflects on the Palestinians, now more killing, more displacement, now refusing the request to provide some names — now asking to provide some names.

So, I think we will see a great deal of procrastination like the one that we have been seeing for the past few months. Netanyahu is interested in his personal safety when it comes to his political career, political life, and I think that’s why even the Israeli security forces, that are not being able to end this military confrontation with the Palestinian factions in Gaza, are now trying to, through the political means, to come to, I would say, honorable end for this, but they are failing to do so.

AMY GOODMAN: You’re talking about Benny Gantz being in Washington now to meet with today Kamala Harris, Tony Blinken — she’ll be meeting with — and other officials. I wanted to, finally, ask you about the issue of famine, about the number of children who are dying of hunger and dehydration, and how the Palestinians are dealing with this at this point.

AKRAM AL-SATARRI: Well, according to the statistics that were released by the Palestinian Ministry of Health, around 1 million Palestinians have developed some diseases of any kind, be them some diseases that have to do with the digestive system, with the respiratory system, with the upper respiratory system, which is indicative of the quality of life, where quality of life has reached in Gaza, and what is the situation of the public health. When you don’t have water desalination plants, when you destroy the water purification systems, when you destroy the solar panels that are on top of the houses of the people, when you destroy the heavy vehicles that are used by the municipalities to remove the waste, when you are destroying everything that has to do with the life of the Palestinians, this result is normal and is projected, and it will continue to deteriorate.

Now, with the children, 18 children have died in northern Gaza. More children are dying in southern Gaza. People cannot get decent food for their children. When people are drinking the water, the water is polluted, and it causes them some serious public health issues. And now the children are the most vulnerable people within the community. We have 1 million child in Gaza, 1 million child that do not have appropriate shelter, do not have appropriate feeding systems. They don’t have appropriate water systems, and they end up consuming water that is polluted, food that is polluted. They end up exposed. The twins that were killed yesterday, they were just twins. They were children. They were killed with their father. So they were deprived from the right to live, and they are still deprived from the right to access decent water, shelter and food supplies. So this is the situation in Gaza as it is. It is an ongoing suffering because of the fact that the Israeli occupation denied them the right to be treated as humans. This is the whole issue.

AMY GOODMAN: Akram al-Satarri, we want to thank you so much for being with us, a Gaza-based journalist, speaking to us today from Rafah. Please be safe.

When we come back, thousands gathered Friday in Moscow for the funeral of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who died in an Arctic prison last month. Stay with us.

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