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Biden says Israel must allow aid to Palestinians

US-Israel relations have been strained by Israel’s conduct of the war in Gaza…reports Asian Lite News

President Joe Biden on Wednesday demanded that new humanitarian aid be allowed to immediately reach Palestinians in the Gaza Strip as key US ally Israel fights Hamas there.

“We’re going to immediately secure that aid and surge it… including food, medical supplies, clean water,” Biden said after signing a massive military aid bill for Israel and Ukraine, which also included $1 billion in humanitarian aid for Gaza.

“Israel must make sure all this aid reaches the Palestinians in Gaza without delay,” he said.

US-Israel relations have been strained by Israel’s conduct of the war in Gaza and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to send troops into the southern Gazan city of Rafah, where 1.5 million people are sheltering, many in makeshift encampments.

“This bill significantly — significantly — increases humanitarian assistance we’re sending to the innocent people of Gaza who are suffering badly,” Biden said.

“They’re suffering the consequences of this war that Hamas started, and we’ve been working intently for months to get as much aid to Gaza as possible.”

Meanwhile, Israel’s military is poised to evacuate Palestinian civilians from Rafah and assault Hamas hold-outs in the southern Gaza Strip city, a senior Israeli defense official said on Wednesday, despite international warnings of humanitarian catastrophe.

A spokesperson for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government said Israel was “moving ahead” with a ground operation, but gave no timeline.

The defense official said Israel’s Defense Ministry had bought 40,000 tents, each with the capacity for 10 to 12 people, to house Palestinians relocated from Rafah in advance of an assault.

Video circulating online appeared to show rows of square white tents going up in Khan Younis, a city some 5 km (3 miles) from Rafah. Reuters could not verify the video but reviewed images from satellite company Maxar Technologies which showed tent camps on Khan Younis land that had been vacant weeks ago.

An Israeli government source said Netanyahu’s war cabinet planned to meet in the coming two weeks to authorize civilian evacuations, expected to take around a month.

The defense official, who requested anonymity, told Reuters that the military could go into action immediately but was awaiting a green light from Netanyahu.

Rafah, which abuts the Egyptian border, is sheltering more than a million Palestinians who fled the half-year-old Israeli offensive through the rest of Gaza, and say the prospect of fleeing yet again is terrifying.

“I have to make a decision whether to leave Rafah because my mother and I are afraid an invasion could happen suddenly and we won’t get time to escape,” said Aya, 30, who has been living temporarily in the city with her family in a school.

She said that some families recently moved to a refugee camp in coastal Al-Mawasi, but their tents caught fire when tank shells landed nearby. “Where do we go?“

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