Israel-Hamas war, Gaza crisis, Blinken visit to the Middle East

People drive with their belongings after evacuating their homes in Rafah, Gaza on November 1.
People drive with their belongings after evacuating their homes in Rafah, Gaza on November 1. Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images

The number of people who have fled from northern Gaza to the southern part of the enclave is estimated at 800,000 “to a million,” the US special envoy for humanitarian affairs in the Middle East said on Saturday — a mass relocation that has exacerbated humanitarian issues, which are expected to increase as more people leave.

The envoy, David Satterfield, said there must be “safe, sustained movement” of aid not just from Egypt’s Rafah crossing to Gaza, but “to points of need in the south”.

“And these points of need are increasing as people come further south,” he added.

The capacity to transport aid has increased exponentially, particularly in the last week, from “almost zero in terms of the ability to transport humanitarian aid through the Rafah corridor into Gaza,” Satterfield said, but reiterated that even the current number of aid trucks crossing from the passage per day is not sufficient.

Although the U.S. believes the current daily flow of trucks into Gaza is sustainable, “it is being expelled from the environment on the ground in southern Gaza,” Satterfield said, noting that U.N. warehouses of essential supplies and food had been breached earlier in the week .

“There was… an environment in Gaza that allowed more normal commercial life, cooking gas, cooking oil, supplies, necessities to flow. That is not the situation now,” he said.

Shelter is also a problem, he added.

“You have 350,000 or 400,000 more in the north. If these people – some of them – come to the south, it will increase the load, it will increase the demand even more,” he added.

The Israeli army has called on civilians in Gaza to move south as it intensifies air and ground attacks on Gaza City and northern Gaza. International aid and rights groups have criticized Israel’s calls for residents to evacuate the north without an end to fighting and while roads and other infrastructure have been severely damaged.

Possible field hospitals and ships: The US is looking at the prospect of establishing field hospitals in southern Gaza, Satterfield said Saturday, and Israel is working with countries to station hospital ships off Gaza.

Satterfield said the US is talking to agencies such as the International Committee of the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders about setting up tent hospitals.

“Now bringing in staff – which we all see in the realm of ‘very possible’ – will require an assurance that staff, international staff, can not only come in but also come out,” he said. “And that of course depends on what we call de-facto authorities.”

Israeli officials are talking with allies such as the United Kingdom and France about large hospital ships, he said, also taking safety and security into account.

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