Middle East

War on Gaza: Israel targets police and aid agencies to ‘create chaos’


The Israeli military has approached some Palestinians in the northern Gaza Strip and asked them to coordinate future aid entry to sidestep the Hamas-run government and UN agencies. 

Middle East Eye has learned that representatives of at least two families in Gaza City and northern towns have been contacted by Israeli authorities who asked them to “cooperate with them”. 

They are requested to adhere to the instructions provided by the Israeli authorities to facilitate the entry of goods and receive and distribute international aid. 

It was not immediately clear whether the two families had taken up the offer and there are no signs that such coordination has taken effect as of yet.

The move comes after repeated Israeli targeting of local police and other civil servants who attempted to maintain law and order and coordinate aid distribution in northern Gaza. 

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It also follows months of Israeli efforts to undermine the role of the UN Agency for Palestinian Refugees (Unrwa), the largest humanitarian agency in Gaza.

At the same time, the military has tightened its aid blockade on more than half a million people in the northern Gaza Strip in recent weeks.

The siege has led to “pockets of famine” emerging there with several reports of people dying from malnutrition, as basic food items run out. 

Residents and experts fear that if successful, the Israeli-engineered family-based local governance system would fuel social unrest and chaos.

“Israel aims to inundate the Gaza Strip with a primitive governance system, resembling tribal rule, where each neighbourhood has its own leader,” Abdallah Sharsharah, a Gaza-based lawyer and human rights advocate, told MEE. 

“These leaders do not rely on popular will but on the strength of arms, as competing groups,” he added.  

Trials 

According to observers on the ground, Israeli authorities have been preparing for this scenario for months. 

Sharsharah said that during his fieldwork monitoring human rights violations, he observed cases that suggested Israeli soldiers were looking for suitable candidates to run this scheme as early as December.  

“When the [army] detained figures like professors, elders, dignitaries, and influential personalities, especially from the northern parts of the strip, they asked exploratory questions to examine the extent to which these figures and the community in general would accept the idea of them directly managing humanitarian aid,” Sharsharah told MEE. 

“At that stage, we did not notice any field arrangements for this approach, but recently, with the occupation announcing its intention to hand over the administration of aid to some entities in the Zaitoun neighbourhood… it became clear that something is being arranged on the ground.”

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Last month, Israeli media reported the army plans to bring goods into Gaza through the Mintar (Karni) land crossing southeast of Gaza City, which has been closed since 2011. 

The reports said the army would deliver the goods to specific “traders” in the Zaitoun neighbourhood as part of a trial period. However, it’s unclear if the trial had taken place.

The army had launched a fresh ground assault into Zaitoun in mid-February, leading to fierce clashes with Palestinian armed groups there, before the Israeli soldiers withdrew on Thursday. 

It is not clear if the incursion into Zaitoun was related to the reported scheme. 

Also on Thursday, Israeli soldiers opened fire on thousands of Palestinians who gathered west of Gaza City to receive food from trucks arriving from southern Gaza. 

More than 112 people were killed and 760 wounded in what the Palestinian health ministry called a “massacre”.

‘Total chaos’

The killings on Thursday were the latest in a series of attacks on the few aid convoys that have been allowed to enter northern Gaza in recent months, and the civilians waiting for them. 

Last month, Israeli naval forces hit a UN convoy carrying aid, preventing it from progressing to Gaza City and northern towns, UN documents showed, according to CNN

No one was hurt in the attack, the report said, but most of the aid inside the truck, which included much-needed wheat flour, was destroyed.

Meanwhile, Israeli forces repeatedly targeted Palestinian civil police officers responsible for guarding convoys of international aid permitted into the impoverished strip, killing a number of them. 

As a result, officers have withdrawn from the Palestinian side of the Karem Abu Salem (Kerem Shalom) crossing with Israel, causing a vacuum that led to hungry crowds and criminal gangs looting most of the aid. 

The Joe Biden administration has reportedly asked Israel to stop targeting civil policemen, warning that the strip may face a “total breakdown of law and order”. Israel reportedly rebuffed the request.  

‘The [Israeli] occupation has caused this state of chaos among the hungry residents and gangs who loot most of the aid’

– Adel Mhanna, Gaza City resident

Following Israeli attacks on convoys and the looting of aid trucks by the hungry crowds, the World Food Programme (WFP) announced last month that it was “pausing deliveries of life-saving food aid to northern Gaza until conditions are in place that allow for safe distributions”. 

Sharsharah believes by taking all these steps, Israel intends to create an alternative to Unrwa that serves its agenda. 

“Historically, the occupation’s cooperation with tribal figures in managing the Gaza Strip is not new. However, this time is different because the occupation realises that these entities it cooperates with gain their power from being nothing more than organised gangs,” he explained. 

Adel Mhanna, a resident of Gaza City, told MEE that the collapse of civil order is aiding Israel in “formulating a new approach” to governance in Gaza.

“The north of Gaza has been living in a total state of chaos in terms of aid distribution and goods,” the 34-year-old teacher said. 

“The [Israeli] occupation has caused this state of chaos among the hungry residents and gangs who loot most of the aid,” he added. 

According to Mhanna, the Israeli military has also been sending new “threatening messages” to residents of Gaza, ordering them to flee south. 

“They are intentionally preventing the entry of aid into Gaza and hampering the work of UN organisations so they would create a total chaos there that would allow them to impose a new form of governance in the future.”



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