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Under the roar of military aircraft, workers were rushing to offload supplies at Egypt’s El Arish airport as aid trickles into the stricken Gaza Strip after more than two weeks of war with Israel. Officials barked orders and forklift trucks revved their engines, swerving at speed on the tarmac as they carried items including vital food and medicine for the Palestinian enclave. Planeloads of aid have been landing for days at El Arish, about 45 kilometres (28 miles) from the Rafah border crossing, the only route into Gaza after all Israeli checkpoints were closed following a shock Hamas assault on October 7. But it was only over the weekend that the first supplies were allowed to reach Gaza, a narrow enclave of some 2.4 million inhabitants, under blockade for years and complete seige by Israel after the latest violence spiralled into war. Hamas militants stormed into Israel from the Gaza Strip on October 7 and killed at least 1,400 people, most of them civilians who were shot, mutilated or burnt to death on the first day of the raid, according to Israeli officials. More than 4,650 Palestinians, mainly civilians, have been killed across the Gaza Strip in relentless Israeli bombardments in retaliation for the attacks, according to the latest toll from the Hamas-controlled health ministry in Gaza. Three convoys of aid totalling about 50 trucks have cleared the Rafah crossing since Saturday, reaching a populace in dire need of food, water and medical supplies. The United Nations estimates Gaza requires about 100 trucks a day to meet the needs of residents, almost half of whom are believed to have been displaced by Israel’s bombing campaign. – Aid ‘ready to be sent’ – In less than an hour on Sunday, two Qatari planes and one Indian aircraft, all carrying aid, touched down at El Arish, with scores of Egyptian Red Crescent workers scrambling to unload them. Youssef al-Mulla, a humanitarian aid worker with the Qatar Development Fund, said the Gulf emirate had supplied over 100 tonnes of aid destined for Gaza since the start of the crisis. “This is the fourth flight that we have sent to El Arish,” he told AFP at the airport, explaining the first delivery had been “37 tonnes in two flights and these two flights have around 86 tonnes of aid”. While Mulla, who accompanied one of the flights from Qatar, was hopeful all the supplies would reach Gaza, he said only two trucks of aid from Qatar had crossed at Rafah as of Sunday. The delays meant further aid earmarked for Gaza had remained in Doha, he said. “It’s ready to be sent at any time,” he said, explaining that there was a reluctance to stockpile further aid in Egypt where warehouses were already filled with supplies for Gaza. “These two flights were scheduled three days ago. But (because of) the situation and the blockade of Gaza we have had pending flights for a while,” Mulla added. UN aid chief Martin Griffiths has called the deliveries into Gaza a “small glimmer of hope” but warned its people would “need more, much more”. The United States has vowed a continued flow of aid under a deal brokered by President Joe Biden with Egyptian and Israeli leaders. As the first Qatari aircraft departed El Arish on Sunday to return to Doha, the aid it brought stood carefully stacked and waiting on the runway’s apron.

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