In recent days, Saudi Arabia has ramped up its humanitarian aid for the people of Gaza, with 15 relief flights arriving in Egypt. These flights carried hundreds of tons of food and shelter materials intended for delivery into the besieged enclave.
Earlier this week, upon the directive of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center, or KSrelief, launched the Kingdom’s first aid convoy to Gaza, comprising 30 trucks loaded with supplies.
The assistance arrived after weeks of intense Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip and tight restrictions on the flow of aid and essential utilities like fuel, electricity and water, which has left hospitals overwhelmed and the population in desperate need.
A humanitarian truce agreement, due to come into effect on Friday, will provide aid agencies with a window of opportunity to deliver urgent assistance to civilians inside Gaza and to allow for the safe exchange of hostages and prisoners.
KSrelief has started delivering aid by sea and air, Dr. Samer Al-Jetaily, the Saudi charity’s director of resources and investment, told Arab News. “The first one carried around 500 tons until now.
“Fifteen airplanes have arrived in Arish (the capital and largest city of the North Sinai Governorate of Egypt). We are cooperating well with the Egyptian Red Crescent, which allows us to take aid directly through the Rafah (crossing) to try to make it reach Gaza.”
Further Saudi aid shipments are arriving by sea at Port Said in northeast Egypt and have also been taken to the Rafah crossing, where trucks provided by international aid agencies have been stacked up for weeks awaiting Israeli clearance to enter Gaza.
Al-Jetaily said he had visited the Rafah border crossing three times over the past two weeks where he met with several displaced Gazans who had managed to flee the carnage to safety in Egypt.
“It is expected that we will have more aid planes arriving in Arish,” he said. “We also have three ships going to Port Said on Saturday and Tuesday. We will continue providing aid. Hopefully, there will be a truce. We are ready to move more aid to Gaza.”
KSrelief had about 326 trucks waiting at Rafah to enter Gaza. Further Saudi aid, including a fleet of 20 ambulances, is expected to arrive at Port Said in the coming days.
On Sunday, the first vessel, carrying some 1,050 tons of aid, departed Saudi Arabia’s Jeddah bound for Egypt, while a second departed earlier this week.
This surge of Saudi aid is arriving ahead of an anticipated four-day humanitarian pause in the fighting that is scheduled to begin on Friday to coincide with the release of 50 Israeli hostages held by Hamas in exchange for 150 Palestinians held in Israeli jails.
Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that has controlled Gaza since 2007, launched an unprecedented attack on southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing about 1,200 people and taking some 240 Israelis and foreigners back to Gaza as hostages.
Israel responded to the attack with a massive bombardment and ground operation designed to eliminate Hamas and liberate the hostages. In the process, more than half of Gaza’s civilian population has been displaced, hospitals, schools, and other infrastructure knocked out of action, and more than 14,000 people killed, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry.
“The situation on the ground is so catastrophic and a complete disaster,” said Al-Jetaily.
“(However), the Israelis only allow 30 trucks right now to enter (at a time). When they do enter it will take three days’ round trip for the trucks to go from Rafah to Karama and other areas of Gaza.
“This is hindering the entire process. We cannot deal with humanitarian aid right now in a professional or minimal way. We hope the truce agreement will give us a chance.”
Saudi Arabia began its Gaza relief campaign on Nov. 2, when King Salman made an $8 million donation, while his son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, donated $5.3 million.
As of Nov. 15, donations made via the Kingdom’s Sahem charity platform to the Saudi National Campaign for Gaza had exceeded SR494 million ($132 million) from 773,310 donors — a figure that is steadily rising.