US envoy: Palestinian police officers killed by Israeli forces guarding Gaza aid in Rafah

US envoy: Palestinian police officers killed by Israeli forces guarding Gaza aid in Rafah
Top US diplomat David Satterfield has said in an interview that the killing of Gaza police officers by Israel has left aid delivery to Gaza unprotected.
3 min read
17 February, 2024
David Satterfield, US envoy for the humanitarian situation in Gaza, has denied allegations that Hamas steals aid and commercial shipments to the Strip [Getty]

David Satterfield, the US State Department envoy for the Middle East, said on Friday that Israel killed Palestinian police officers who were guarding a UN aid convoy in the besieged southern Gaza city of Rafah

In an interview with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Satterfield said that the attack led to convoys being left without police protection. 

The attack has hindered aid delivery and dispersal due to threats from criminal groups, added Satterfield, who is involved in facilitating aid in the Palestinian territory

“With the departure of police escorts, it has been virtually impossible for the UN or anyone else, Jordan, the UAE, or any other implementer to safely move assistance in Gaza because of criminal elements,” Satterfield said. 

Washington's envoy for humanitarian issues noted that while some police escorts are Hamas members, others are officers without direct links to the group.

Israeli forces have not immediately provided comment on his remarks. 

Most of Gaza's 2.2 million Palestinians have been displaced by Israeli ground and air operations since the war began in 7 October.

Israeli bombardments and fighting have destroyed huge swathes of the enclave and created a humanitarian disaster that is prompting fears among aid groups of starvation.  

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The UN has said aid has been impeded by Israeli forces, a charge Israel denies. 

Satterfield was asked if there was any truth to a report that Israeli troops killed "Hamas operatives" protecting a UN aid convoy in Rafah earlier this month. 

“The IDF [Israeli forces] 10 days, two weeks ago, did indeed strike at seven, eight, or nine police officials, including a commander whose units had been involved in providing escorts," he replied. 

Such escorts were needed because of attacks on aid convoys first by "desperate" Palestinians and "then by criminal elements," Satterfield said. 

The police "certainly include Hamas elements. They also include individuals who don't have a direct affiliation with Hamas who are there as part of the Palestinian Authority's remnant presence and security,” he said, referring to the Western-backed body that exercises limited governance in the occupied West Bank. 

On February 10, Hamas and Gaza medics said that two Israeli airstrikes had killed five members of Rafah's police force, including a senior officer.  

The same day, Israel's military said it had struck and killed three Hamas members in Rafah, including two senior operatives in the area. 

It was not clear if Satterfield was referring to the February 10 incident. Hamas has not said if it has stopped police escorts of aid convoys. 

Satterfield said the US was working with the Israeli government and military to determine "what solutions can be found because everyone wants the assistance to continue." 

He denied allegations that Hamas has stolen aid and commercial shipments into Gaza. 

“No Israeli official has come to me, come to the administration with specific evidence of diversion or theft of assistance delivered by the UN in the center of the south of Gaza,” Satterfield said. 

But, he continued, Hamas has been using other aid delivery channels to "shape where and to whom assistance goes." 

Reuters contributed to this report