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Another convoy of humanitarian aid gets into Gaza over the weekend

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

The U.N. says 34 aid trucks went into Gaza over the weekend. The convoys carried the first humanitarian aid to Gaza since Hamas fighters launched their attack on Israel just over two weeks ago. Lynn Hastings is the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for the occupied Palestinian Territory. Thanks for joining us.

First, President Biden says that he and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have affirmed, as he put it, a continued flow of critical aid to Palestinians in need. How confident are you that a continued flow of food, water and medical supplies is actually a reality?

LYNN HASTINGS: In terms of 34 trucks, obviously, that's a drop in the bucket in terms of what is needed, and we are pushing for increasing and sustain trucks going in every day. While we welcome the fact that 34 trucks went in and another 20 should be going in today, it's not nearly enough.

MARTÍNEZ: At minimum, how many trucks of aid would be helpful?

HASTINGS: At this point, as much as we can get in. I don't want to give a specific number. All we can say at the moment is that 20 a day is wholly insufficient in terms of the need. Gaza has not had any water flowing, nor electricity, nor fuel. Food is in very short supply. Medicines are pretty well out. And I just want to emphasize to your listeners that fuel is needed for hospitals to run for those thousands who have been injured - now over 13,000 - to actually receive assistance, for desalination plants to run, and Gaza relies largely on desalinated or bottled water. And of course, if we get aid in but our trucks don't have any fuel to deliver assistance throughout Gaza, then the aid that we are pushing to get in won't be able to be distributed.

MARTÍNEZ: And if fuel were brought in, how could there be a guarantee that it would not wind up being used for weapons?

HASTINGS: Sure. And that's an important point. It's something that the U.N. has worked with the Israelis for well over a decade in terms of bringing it in in a secured fashion, and we are in negotiations and discussions with the Israelis right now to ensure that the mechanisms that are used will continue to make sure that the fuel goes to the U.N. agencies, the hospitals, the desalination plants.

MARTÍNEZ: Now, Israel has stepped up its bombing campaign against Hamas over the weekend. If they were to move to a ground invasion, how would that change the flow of aid into Gaza?

HASTINGS: Well, obviously, if there's airstrikes, that brings certain challenges, and then the ground invasion does as well. All member states have to abide by rules of conflict. There are rules to wars. The government of Israel would be required - and is required - regardless of whether or not it's airstrikes or ground invasions, to allow humanitarians to deliver assistance. We call them humanitarian cease-fires, humanitarian pauses, humanitarian corridors. But we would be expecting to be able to deliver throughout Gaza where there are needs, regardless of the type of incursion.

MARTÍNEZ: But is Hamas bound by those rules of war?

HASTINGS: Yes - not just member states, but armed groups that form have certain indicators in accordance with international law. Again, I won't bore you with the details, but, yes.

MARTÍNEZ: Now, you have another role within the U.N. as a representative to the Middle East peace process. How far away does peace look and feel to you right now?

HASTINGS: Well, even before October 7 - and I do just want to highlight the fact that, of course, the United Nations is calling for the release of those hostages. We have repeatedly condemned what happened on October 7, and those hostages should be released immediately and unconditionally, just as humanitarian aid needs to go in immediately and unconditionally. But even before October 7, the peace process itself seemed very, very, very remote, so it obviously seems even more remote now. What we need right now is a humanitarian cease-fire, a cease-fire so that we can get back on some semblance of dialogue.

MARTÍNEZ: That's Lynn Hastings, U.N. humanitarian coordinator for the occupied Palestinian Territory. Thank you very much for sharing this information with us.

HASTINGS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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