USAID Administrator Samantha Power held a press conference on Tuesday at the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing, where she called for Palestinian civilian protection and safe humanitarian access into the Gaza Strip.
This came shortly after Power arrived Tuesday morning at Al-Arish Airport, and inspected the US humanitarian aid that should be delivered to the civilians of besieged Gaza.
During the press conference, she commended the Egyptian Government for its ongoing efforts to provide humanitarian aid to the civilians in Gaza who are in desperate need.
"I'm here at El-Arish Airport, where a U.S. C-17 just delivered more than 36,000 pounds of food, medical supplies, and blankets. I want to thank the Government of Egypt for hosting me today, and for its continued work to get humanitarian assistance to civilians who are in desperate need in Gaza," Power said.
On the grave humanitarian crises in Gaza, she recounted that some parents in Gaza are writing names on their children's legs so that they can be identified if they or their families are killed, adding other parents are having their children split up, sheltering at different locations, putting them with different relatives, so as to increase the chances that at least some of them will survive. "No parent should ever have to make choices like that."
The American top official also affirmed in this regard that Israeli military operations need to be conducted in a way that distinguishes fighters from civilians. "As Israel's military operations continue, Palestinian civilians must be protected."
She underscored the need to clearly deconflict areas to ensure the safety of civilians, access to humanitarian aid, and the ability for workers and journalists to do their work securely.
"Civilians must be safe when they are at home, safe when they are at a hospital, and safe when they are at a shelter. And of course, Hamas must stop using civilians as human shields and thrusting the Palestinian people into the middle of this conflict," Power stressed.
In the same connection, she emphasized the importance of continuing the delivery of life-saving humanitarian aid that began during the recent ceasefire. "This is crucial to meet the needs of the nearly 2.2 million people requiring humanitarian assistance in Gaza, including around 1.9 million internally displaced people. Since the start of the conflict, President Biden and officials across his administration have been working to overcome diplomatic challenges, navigate complex logistics, and address daily issues to ensure as much aid as possible is delivered to Gaza. During the recent ceasefire, over 1,600 trucks carrying life-saving supplies entered Gaza, which is more than the entire previous month."
She continued: "I just had a productive meeting with the Egyptian Red Crescent, and our United Nations partners about how we can build on this progress, and further accelerate the pace of assistance flowing into and being distributed to people in need in Gaza. The levels of aid reached during the pause need to be the bare minimum of what goes in going forward."
The USAID Administrator said that the aid that reached civilians in the past should be considered as the starting point.
"We need to continue increasing beyond there. Critical to accelerating assistance is to strengthen so-called deconfliction mechanisms – protecting humanitarian sites and humanitarian workers so that they can safely deliver aid, and civilians can safely access that aid, not once, but on a sustained basis."
The American diplomat acknowledged that providing humanitarian aid via trucks across the border is not sufficient to meet the needs of over 2 million people in Gaza. "These people require access to basic commodities in order to survive."
According to Power, Israel must reopen access to commercial goods, expand the humanitarian community's response, and restore basic services, especially water and fuel supply. Although there has been some progress in returning the two water pipelines and desalination plants serving the south and middle of Gaza to partial capacity, meeting the true scale of need requires getting them to full capacity and allowing the pipeline and desalination plant that serves the north to resume operations.
"Everyone involved must make every effort to alleviate the suffering caused by this terrible conflict," Power asserted, adding that every country has to do everything in its power to facilitate as much life-saving assistance to Gaza as possible.