The number of people who have fled from north of Wadi Gaza to the southern part of the enclave is estimated to be 800,000 "to perhaps a million," the US special envoy for Middle East humanitarian issues said Saturday — a mass relocation that has exacerbated humanitarian issues, which are only expected to grow as more people flee.
The envoy, David Satterfield, said there needs to be the “secure, sustained movement” of aid not only from the Rafah crossing in Egypt to Gaza, but “into points of need in the south.”
“And those points of need are growing as individuals come increasingly to the south,” he added.
The ability to move assistance has scaled up exponentially, particularly in the last week, from “pretty much zero in terms of ability to move humanitarian assistance through the Rafah corridor into Gaza,” Satterfield said, but reiterated that even the current number of aid trucks getting through the crossing per day is not sufficient.
Although the US believes the current daily flow of trucks into Gaza is sustainable, “it's challenged by the environment on the ground in south Gaza,” Satterfield said, noting United Nations warehouses with basic supplies and food had been broken into early in the week.
“There was … an environment in Gaza, which allowed more normal commercial life, cooking gas, cooking oil, provisions, necessities of life to move in. That's not the situation now,” he said.
Shelter is also a problem, he added.
“You've got 350,000 or 400,000 still in the north. If those individuals — some portion of them — come to the south, that's going to increase the load, increase the demand even more,” he added.
Israeli's military has called for civilians in Gaza to move south as it intensifies its air and ground assault on Gaza City and northern Gaza. International aid and rights groups have criticized Israel's calls for residents to evacuate the north without a pause in fighting and while roads and other infrastructure are badly damaged.
Possible field hospitals and ships: The US is looking at the prospect of establishing field hospitals in south Gaza, Satterfield said Saturday, and Israel is engaging with countries about putting hospital ships offshore of Gaza.
Satterfield said the US is speaking with agencies like the International Committee of the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders to set up tented field hospitals.
“Now bringing in staff — which we all see in the realm of the 'very doable' — will require an assurance that staff, international staff, not only can come in but can exit,” he said. “And that of course lies with what we refer to as the de-facto authorities.”
Israeli officials are speaking with allies like the United Kingdom and France about large hospital ships, he said, while also taking security and safety into account.