War on Gaza: Israeli protesters block aid trucks from entering the strip
Israeli protesters blocked aid trucks carrying desperately needed food and medical supplies from heading to Gaza on Friday, days after ministers in Israel's war cabinet considered limiting the amount of aid reaching the besieged Palestinian enclave.
Scores of Israeli protesters, part of the Tzav 9 ("Order 9") movement, could be seen blocking trucks in the southern border town of Nitzana, which is home to an Israeli military camp and a commercial border crossing with Egypt.
Friday's protest came a day after hundreds of Israelis blocked a convoy of trucks from leaving Ashdod seaport for Gaza.
In one incident at Thursday's protest, an Israeli ultranationalist could be seen pushing and verbally abusing a Palestinian truck driver, audibly calling him a "slave".
Israeli lawmaker Tzvi Sukkot, of the far-right Religious Zionism party, said on X, formerly known as Twitter, that he and others were blocking aid from reaching Gaza because "assisting the enemy during wartime is a moral and ethical stain".
The Tzav 9 movement, named in reference to the Tzav 8 emergency mobilisation notices that Israeli reservists received on 7 October, has been demanding the immediate suspension of life-saving aid for Gaza until all Israeli captives are released.
Last week, Israeli protesters, including relatives of those taken captive to Gaza on 7 October, blocked emergency aid from reaching the enclave through the Kerem Shalom crossing.
They held up over 100 trucks, some of which were eventually diverted and forced to find an alternative entry point in Egypt, delaying the aid further and forcing it to go through additional checks.
Late on Wednesday, Benny Gantz, a member of Israel's three-man war cabinet, and observer Gadi Eisenkot, suggested that they were considering limiting humanitarian aid from entering Gaza in a bid to weaken Hamas, Israeli television reported.
According to Channel 12 news, the two National Unity party ministers believe that limiting the entry of aid for a short amount of time could create pressure for an alternative body to take responsibility for distributing aid among the enclave’s civilians, helping shape conditions in Gaza "the day after" the war.
Aid has been slow to trickle into Gaza with aid agencies accusing the Israeli government of pursuing collective punishment against the Palestinians.
Humanitarian groups, including the UN, estimate that 500 lorries carrying aid are required to enter Gaza daily, but the number able to cross through Egyptian and Israeli checkpoints is often below 100.
On Thursday, Qatari officials said that Hamas had given "initial positive confirmation" to a temporary truce in Gaza in exchange for the release of captives, after US, Egyptian and Qatari mediators met Israeli intelligence officials in Paris.
"That proposal has been approved by the Israeli side and now we have an initial positive confirmation from the Hamas side," Qatar’s foreign ministry spokesperson, Majed al-Ansari, told an audience at a Washington-based graduate school.
Reports have swirled for days that as part of the deal, Hamas would release all civilian hostages held by the group in Gaza during a six-week pause in fighting, in exchange for three times as many Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails.
A senior Israeli official told NBC News that there were "strong indications" a deal would move ahead, while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told family members of hostages that the details of any deal must be kept discreet for it to work, the Times of Israel reported.
Citing unnamed officials familiar with the intense negotiations being mediated by the US, Qatar, and Egypt, the Washington Post said the initial proposal also envisions additional pauses during which hostage soldiers and bodies of dead hostages will be released.