October 21, 2023
Israel had vowed not to allow any aid to Gaza until Hamas released the 210 hostages it is holding, but Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant explained that officials had to back down: “The Americans insisted and we are not in a place where we can refuse them. We rely on them for planes and military equipment. What are we supposed to do? Tell them no?”
The convoy is a test to see if Hamas will permit the aid to get to civilians. Blinken warned that if it interferes, “it will hinder the international community from being able to provide this aid. Civilian lives must be protected, and assistance must urgently reach those in need. We will continue to work closely with partners in the region to stress the importance of adhering to the law of war, supporting those who are trying to get to safety or provide assistance, and facilitating access to food, water, medical care, and shelter for citizens wherever they are located in Gaza.”
While more than 200 trucks are waiting at the border and Egypt says the crossing is now open permanently, the next convoy is not expected to cross the border until Monday, even as conditions in Gaza worsen.
The U.S. is continuing to work to get U.S. citizens and their families out of Gaza through Egypt.
Also today, Egypt held a hastily convened peace summit with leaders from Arab countries, Europe, Africa, and North America to figure out how to stop the violence in Gaza. While the parties were unable to agree on a statement, there was a broad consensus that Israel must abide by the laws of war, which prohibit making war on civilians. (Israel claims it honors this prohibition as it tries to eliminate Hamas and its infrastructure, and also to recover the hostages Hamas is holding. Hostage-taking is also prohibited by the rules of war.)
Neither Israel nor Hamas was at the meeting. The head of the Palestinian Authority (which has partial control of the West Bank), Mahmoud Abbas, spoke for the Palestinians. He decried what he called war crimes as Israeli airstrikes kill civilians, and called for a two-state solution to the crisis, although a recent Gallup poll suggests a strong majority of Palestinians do not support that effort.
Abbas’s call harks back to the longstanding plan for two independent states that Hamas rejects and that the 2020 Abraham Accords negotiated by the Trump administration undermined by normalizing relations between Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain without providing for a Palestinian state. Since then, Israel has accelerated the settlement of Israelis on Palestinian lands in the West Bank.
The call to resurrect a two-state solution was echoed by Egypt’s president Sisi and Jordan’s King Abdullah II, who do not want Palestinians displaced by Israel to destabilize their countries. Chinese leader Xi Jinping backed that idea on Thursday in his first statement on the crisis, and in his own speech on Thursday, Biden also said, “We cannot give up on a two-state solution.”
Meanwhile, Israel has increased its warnings to those in the north of Gaza of an approaching ground invasion, in which those who do not evacuate risk being “identified as a partner in a terrorist organization.”
As this conflict plays out, observers have already identified widespread disinformation about it on social media. “X,” formerly known as Twitter, is one of the worst actors.
In the U.S., such disinformation pits Americans against each other, and today the U.S. sent a cable to more than 100 countries warning that U.S. intelligence officials assess that Russia is using such methods to affect the elections around the world. A senior State Department official told reporters that Russia was so successful in amplifying disinformation about the 2020 U.S. election and the COVID-19 pandemic that the Kremlin decided to up its game.