Middle East

Australian billionaire proposes building new aid system for Gaza

Hilary Whiteman

An Australian billionaire is offering to build a secure gate system on the Israel-Gaza border that he says could allow 10,000 metric tons of food aid to be delivered each day to starving Palestinians.

Andrew Forrest, founder of the philanthropic Minderoo Foundation, was set to raise the proposal Tuesday at an emergency summit on Gaza in Jordan, co-hosted by that country, Egypt and the United Nations, and attended by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

He’s also committed $5 million to improve the Jordanian humanitarian land corridor by building storage warehouses to allow more aid to pass to Gaza.

“Right now, the Jordanian people are bearing a significant load by leading the single most effective route into Gaza. It is my intention to lighten their load,” Forrest, a mining magnate and avowed eco-warrior, said in a statement.

According to a video presentation on its website, Minderoo said the more ambitious plan, to build SafeGates at three points along the Israel-Gaza border, could be up and running in three weeks, if Israel gives the green light.

In a separate statement, Forrest said the project had been devised in consultation with Israel and Palestinian communities for the past two months. CNN has asked Israel for comment on the plan.

The presentation added that the project has been developed by Fortescue, the iron ore mining and green energy company of which Forrest is the founder and executive chairman.

SafeGates involves installing three remotely monitored access points at undisclosed locations on the Israel-Gaza border to conduct 3D scans of trucks delivering aid to the region as they arrive and depart.

“Being located at crossing points into Gaza, the gates will be operated by a third party that will have remote monitoring capabilities over the facilities and scanning equipment and determine the gates’ operational hours,” Forrest said in the statement.

“There is no cost to Israel and the plan respects red lines. On the Gazan side, we will work with the existing network of agencies, businesses, as well as Palestinian community groups for aid distribution within the Strip,” he added.

The deliveries would supplement other efforts to deliver aid to Palestinians who have been living under sustained bombardment by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) since Hamas militants launched a deadly attack on Israel last October.

During that attack, Hamas-led militants killed around 1,200 Israelis and took more than 250 hostages.

After the rescue of four hostages earlier this week, around 116 are believed to still be in Gaza, alive or dead.

Israel’s efforts to eradicate Hamas have killed more than 37,000 Palestinians since October 7, according to the Ministry of Health.

The IDF has repeatedly said hundreds of trucks carrying humanitarian aid have been entering the Gaza Strip, but aid organizations say the supplies are not reaching civilians in need.

How would it work?

A video of the SafeGates system shows trucks driving at an automated entry gate, where they undergo a 3D scan to identify any security issues, before being allowed to enter a secure compound.

Once in the holding area, the driver leaves via a door back to Israel, while another door opens on the Gaza side, allowing a driver from the Palestinian enclave to drive the truck out of the compound.

According to the video, the truck would be scanned again on the Gaza side, and once cleared, the cabin would be detached from its trailer for the unloading of the aid,  before reattaching and returning to Israel via the same process.

The system would work to prevent unauthorized access to the vehicles, allaying fears that aid deliveries could present an opportunity for potential attackers to cross the border.

The passage of aid into Gaza has become gridlocked by Israeli inspections, and in some cases the temporary closure of access points.

The US has attempted to provide aid to Gaza via airdrops, and more recently by building a floating pier to allow the delivery of supplies from various countries by boat.

However, a week after its started operation, the pier broke apart in rough seas, temporarily halting aid deliveries while damaged portions were towed to Israel for repairs. It was reconnected last Friday.

Humanitarian crisis

International condemnation of Israel’s actions in Gaza is growing and on Monday the United Nations Security Council overwhelmingly approved a US-backed ceasefire plan.

However, Israel vowed to continue its military operation in Gaza, saying it won’t engage in “meaningless” negotiations with Hamas.

Meanwhile, mass hunger has created a secondary peril for Palestinians living within the besieged strip.

In a recent report, the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET), said it was “possible, if not likely” that the threshold for a famine had been passed in northern Gaza in April. The thresholds to confirm a famine are an extreme lack of food in households, acute malnutrition and mortality.

FEWS NET, funded by the US Agency for International Development, is a leading provider of early warning and analysis on acute food insecurity around the world.

It said it wasn’t possible to confirm a famine in the north because it was too dangerous to deploy people there to gather data, but it warned that conditions will worsen if more aid is not delivered soon.

“It is possible famine will persist through at least July if there is not a fundamental change in how food assistance is distributed and accessed after entering Gaza,” the report warned.

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