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The UN says 20 trucks of aid are not enough, asks for fuel to be let in for hospitals


Twenty trucks carrying food and medical supplies from the United Nations moved through the Rafah crossing from Egypt into Gaza today. Joined now by Assistant Secretary-General Lynn Hastings, U.N. humanitarian coordinator in the occupied Palestinian territory. She joins us from Jerusalem. Thank you so much for being with us.

LYNN HASTINGS: Thanks for having me.

SIMON: Please help us understand what this aid represents, given the enormous needs on the ground in Gaza.

HASTINGS: It represents a very small first but important start. Obviously, it's really a drop in the bucket. Everything is needed there, given nothing has been going in for the two weeks, but also given the dire circumstances before October 7 and, of course, the damage that has been done throughout Gaza since then. We need the most basics - water, food, medicine - and I have to highlight the need for fuel. I know that fuel is a riskier item because it can be used in a number of different ways, but without fuel we won't have the hospitals running. Desalination plants won't run. Hygiene will continue to suffer, and, of course, to - for the trucks that have to deliver the aid.

SIMON: I mean, of course, what the Israelis are concerned about, they say, with fuel is that they can also be used for rockets. They can be used for Hamas to deliver weapons, that it can be used offensively.

HASTINGS: Yes, of course. And we're aware of it. And that's why I say it is definitely riskier. It's been a concern ever since Hamas took over the strip in 2007. The United Nations has mechanisms in place and has been bringing fuel in, which we have never received an allegation of diversion of. We would continue to work with the government of Israel to find appropriate mechanisms in this new situation to make sure fuel can come in safely and in a controlled manner so it's used for the purposes it is intended.

SIMON: What are the prospects, do you know, for more aid coming in anytime soon?

HASTINGS: Well, we have been calling for a sustained, increased daily shipment of deliveries into Gaza. This is a must. We are hearing that maybe another 10 to 20 trucks will go in tomorrow. We're in the middle of confirming that. But this is going to be a long-term effort. It isn't about a couple of days. And as I said, it's not about 20 trucks a day. It's about increasing the volume. There are hundreds of trucks waiting outside of Gaza right now at the Rafah crossing to get in.

SIMON: Assistant Secretary-General Hastings, you've traveled regularly to Gaza and the West Bank. Help us understand the conditions there, as you see them, and your concerns if and when an Israeli ground invasion begins.

HASTINGS: I'm not sure I can imagine what that's going to look like, given the devastation that's already taken place. We are concerned, of course, about the continued bombardment of both civilians and civilian infrastructure, which is prohibited, I think for obvious reasons. Israel does have very legitimate security concerns, but there are laws of war. There are rules to war. The right to self-defense is not absolutely unlimited, and Israel needs to work with the United Nations to ensure its own security, while ensuring that the civilian population does not suffer.

SIMON: Gaza needs aid very quickly, right?

HASTINGS: Correct.

SIMON: What do you see as the best thing to do right now to deliver it?

HASTINGS: We need to be able to deliver throughout Gaza, which we have been calling for a humanitarian pause at the least, which would allow our trucks to move so the assistance is delivered to where people are now.

SIMON: Assistant Secretary-General Lynn Hastings, U.N. humanitarian coordinator in the occupied Palestinian territory, thank you so much for being with us.

HASTINGS: Thank you very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.