Israel to open new routes for humanitarian aid into Gaza following tense call between Biden and Netanyahu

5 April 2024, 05:28

Biden calls for 'immediate ceasefire' in tense call with Netanyahu, telling Israeli PM aid worker strikes 'unacceptable'
Biden calls for 'immediate ceasefire' in tense call with Netanyahu, telling Israeli PM aid worker strikes 'unacceptable'. Picture: Alamy
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

Israel has said it will reopen two new humanitarian routes to allow aid deliveries into Gaza after a push from the United States.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said on Friday his security cabinet has approved a series of "immediate steps", including the temporary reopening of the Erez crossing for the first time since the Hamas attack on October 7.

It also said Israel would allow its port in Ashdod to process aid shipments bound for Gaza, as well as permitting an increase in Jordanian aid shipments through another land crossing.

"This increased aid will prevent a humanitarian crisis and is necessary to ensure the continuation of the fighting and to achieve the goals of the war," Mr Netanyahu's office said.

The announcement did not elaborate on quantities or types of items to be let in.

It comes after US President Joe Biden called for an 'immediate ceasefire' in Gaza during a 'tense' call with Mr Netanyahu.

Joe Biden visits Israel to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv, Israel, October 18, 2023
Joe Biden visits Israel to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv, Israel, October 18, 2023. Picture: Alamy

Biden told his Israeli counterpart that "an immediate ceasefire is essential to stabilise and improve the humanitarian situation and protect innocent civilians" in Gaza, the White House said following the call Thursday.

The conversation was their first official communication since the killing of seven aid workers in an Israeli drone strike in Gaza Monday night.

Biden told Netanyahu that "strikes on humanitarian workers and the overall humanitarian situation are unacceptable".

The call for a ceasefire is the US's strongest public rebuke toward Israel since the start of its war with Hamas, as Biden told Netanyahu that US foreign policy will be determined by whether Israel addresses Palestinian civilian and aid worker safety.

'It's clear Joe Biden wants to see Benjamin Netanyahu within hours or days changing course in Gaza' says Simon Marks

Read More: 'Heartbroken' families of British veterans killed in Israeli strike condemn 'inhumane' act that killed seven aid workers

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The call between the two leaders reportedly lasted around 30 minutes and was described by a source as "tense and challenging", according to Axios.

The readout released by the White House following Biden's call said: "He made clear that US policy with respect to Gaza will be determined by our assessment of Israel’s immediate action on these steps.

"He underscored that an immediate ceasefire is essential to stabilize and improve the humanitarian situation and protect innocent civilians, and he urged the prime minister to empower his negotiators to conclude a deal without delay to bring the hostages home."

Biden then told Netanyahu that he needed to "announce and implement a series of specific, concrete, and measurable steps to address civilian harm, humanitarian suffering, and the safety of aid workers"

Netanyahu's office has not yet released its own readout of the call with Biden.

Palestinians inspect a vehicle with the logo of the World Central Kitchen wrecked by an Israeli airstrike in Deir al Balah, Gaza Strip
Palestinians inspect a vehicle with the logo of the World Central Kitchen wrecked by an Israeli airstrike in Deir al Balah, Gaza Strip. Picture: Alamy

Read More: In Washington celebrity chef and World Central Kitchen founder José Andrés, Israel has picked a powerful enemy

Read More: Family of British charity worker James Kirby killed in Israel airstrike demands apology from 'disrespectful' Netanyahu

Following the strike that killed seven aid workers from World Central Kitchen, Netanyahu described the attack as unintended and "tragic" and pledged an independent inquiry.

It comes after World Central Kitchen founder Jose Andres said on Wednesday that the Israeli military was aware of the convoy's movements.

He told Reuters: "This was not just a bad luck situation where 'oops' we dropped the bomb in the wrong place.

"This was over 1.5km, 1.8km, with a very defined humanitarian convoy that had signs in the top, in the roof, a very colourful logo that we are obviously very proud of.

"It's very clear who we are and what we do."

There is also growing pressure on the UK Government to suspend arms sales to Israel, with a letter that has been signed by more than 600 lawyers, including former Supreme Court justices.

'The Israeli military may have caused an enormous amount of difficulty for Benjamin Netanyahu's relationship with Joe Biden' says Simon Marks

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