CBNNews.com—JERUSALEM—In advance of her first visit to Israel as US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton has sent a series of messages to Israeli leaders, criticizing what she considers to be a slow pace for the transport of humanitarian aid entering the Gaza Strip. Clinton's focus on humanitarian aid for Palestinians, rather than on Israel's security needs, is the latest sign that of what many Israelis perceive as the Obama Administration distancing itself from Israel.
Last week, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said the border crossings between Israel and Gaza will remain closed until Hamas, which rules Gaza, releases captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Shalit has been held in Gaza since June, 2006, when he was kidnapped in a Palestinian cross-border raid. Still, Israel is allowing essential humanitarian aid to come into Gaza.
U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell arrives on Thursday, ahead of Clinton, who is scheduled to arrive Monday night. Mitchell is also expected to admonish Israeli leaders for the clampdown on the border crossings. Currently, fewer than 200 trucks per day are entering the Gaza strip. The US, in keeping with the demands of the European Union (EU) and the United Nations, wants the Gaza crossings open to allow 500 trucks per day.
On Tuesday, Israel's chief of the diplomatic-security bureau at the Defense Ministry, Major General (res) Amos Gilad, denied EU reports of severe restrictions in humanitarian aid. "Contrary to EU reports, 116,400 tons of humanitarian aid was allowed into the Gaza Strip according to requests made by international organizations and private groups since the cease fire went into effect on January 18," Gilad stated. "Any claim of food shortage [in Gaza] is false."
The US committed Tuesday to $900 million to rebuild parts of the Gaza Strip destroyed in Israel's Operation Cast Lead in December and January.