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Exclusive: Interview with Senior Israeli Office from COGAT
This evening, the IDF Spokesman's New Media Unit arranged for an exclusive blogger-press-
The senior official briefed us on the humanitarian aid transfer to Gaza in general, as well as the specifics of the aid from the flotilla ships.
On a daily basis 80-100 trucks with humanitarian aid enters Gaza via Israel. The aid is not only medical supplies, but also contains supplies that support a wide range of important infrastructure projects, including water, sewage, and electrical power. We coordinate our efforts with UNRWA, UNESCO, WHO, UNICEF and we even help facilitate the transfer of toys and the enabling of mobile swimming pools for Gazan summer camps.
So far, we have loaded 21 trucks worth of aid from the flotilla and it appear that there will between 70-80 trucks worth of aid. Its difficult to ascertain the amount of supplies because the aid was not loaded in an orderly manner onto the ships in crates, cartons or containers -- but was haphazardly dumped in.
As of now, there are 8 trucks at the Israeli - Gaza border crossing of Kerem Shalom; 7 of which contain medical equipment for the disabled and elderly, including 100 electric mobility scooters and hundreds of wheelchairs.
Unfortunately, the disabled, sick and elderly in Gaza are denied this aid, because Hamas has forbidden anyone in Gaza to coordinate the distribution of this equipment.
Hamas has stated that until every last one of the flotilla activists have returned to their home countries, they will refuse to allow the aid to enter Gaza.
Questions from bloggers:
Q: How does this equipment normally get distributed?
A: The PA in Ramallah represents the private sector in Gaza, and coordinates the distribution via the humanitarian organizations.
Q: How much aid does the flotilla represent, compared to the usual aid flowing into Gaza via Israel?
A: About 1 day's worth.
Q: What sort of aid is on the ships?
A: Clothes and shoes, though its not clear if they are new or used. Medicine, medical equipment. Its difficult to know because it was all randomly thrown into the belly of the ships.
Q: If its urgent for all this humanitarian aid to get into Gaza, why is Hamas not allowing it in?
A: We (COGAT) has even asked the Red Cross to help with distributing the medical equipment, yet they have refused to get involved. We have 13 trucks waiting in Israel, not including the 9 at the Keren Shalom crossing, and we're just waiting to send it in.
Q: Had the date of the aid medication expired?
A: So far, we have located two types of medication. An unlabled cough syrup of some sort, which expired this past April, and children's paracetamol (liquid acetaminophen) which expires this coming July.
Q: Slate magazine wrote a highly critical article against Israel's handling of this flotilla and the Gaza embargo in general. They wrote specifically that:
However, the execution of the policy [of the embargo] has been unreasonably draconian. Israeli officials take so long to inspect the cargo that medicines often expire by the time they reach Palestinian patients.
How long does it take COGAT to inspect and transfer medicines; what is the average turnaround time?
A: The average turn around time is 2 weeks. We need to ensure the medicine meets international health standards. Often, the medicines arrive, having already expired, or they arrive in packaging in a foreign language that no one here in the region knows, let alone the people in Gaza.
Slate Magazine should speak with the UN health organizations that were responsible for distributing the medical aid from the "Free Gaza" organization after the Cast Lead operation. The vast majority of the medicine received was useless.