By Nidal al-Mughrabi

CAIRO (Reuters) – Gunmen and masked men from a range of clans and factions have begun providing security for aid convoys in Gaza as Hamas seeks to retain its influence in the enclave, Palestinian officials and militant group sources say .

Video footage obtained by Reuters showed a convoy of trucks driving into Gaza City overnight with foreign aid, watched by several men armed with AK-47 assault rifles and others with sticks.

As Israeli forces have vowed to eliminate Hamas since their deadly raid on Israel on October 7, it has become extremely risky for anyone associated with the Islamist group to come forward to ensure security for it To ensure aid deliveries to desperate civilians.

According to Palestinian officials and Hamas sources, numerous clans, civil society groups and factions – including Hamas’s secular political rival Fatah – have stepped in to help ensure the security of the aid convoys.

They did not name the clans and factions, but said that Hamas’s ability to rally such groups behind it on security issues showed that it continued to have influence and that Israel’s efforts to establish its own administrative system to maintain order in Gaza encounter resistance.

“Israel’s plan to find some clans to cooperate in its pilot projects to find an alternative to Hamas was not successful, but it also showed that Palestinian resistance groups are the only ones in charge one way or another,” said a Palestinian official who asked not to be named.

An Israeli military spokesman declined to comment, saying specific rules of engagement in an active war zone cannot be discussed publicly.

Civil order tense

According to Gaza health authorities, the Israeli offensive in Gaza has killed over 30,000 Palestinians and reduced much of the enclave to rubble. The campaign was launched in response to the Hamas attack on October 7, in which Israel said 1,200 people were killed and more than 200 were taken hostage.

Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since 2007, has built its popularity through social services, educational programs and charities it offers to impoverished Gazans.

With public order strained and civilian police wary of providing security for fear of being targeted by the Israeli military, it has become increasingly difficult to ensure the safe distribution of aid.

Dozens of Palestinians were killed last month after crowds surrounded a convoy of aid trucks entering the northern Gaza Strip and Israeli troops opened fire. Israel said many victims were trampled or run over and that it only opened fire when its troops felt threatened by the advancing crowd.

A senior Israeli official, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said Israel was in principle open to Palestinians securing areas in the Gaza Strip liberated from Hamas and could even agree to the formation of an armed police force.

“But this is more of an exercise for the day after (after the war) than something that could be implemented immediately as policy. We would have to be sure that the individuals have no ties to Hamas – and certainly not that they are directly or indirectly linked to it.” “They serve Hamas’ interests,” the Israeli official said.

Juliette Touma, spokeswoman for the UN refugee agency UNRWA, had no information about masked men securing convoys.

Jamie McGoldrick, U.N. humanitarian coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territories, said the United Nations does not work with clans.

“We tried to get the Blue Police (Palestinian Civil Police) back on track. “There have been a number of incidents in which the Blue Police have been targeted by Israel because they consider them to be part of the Hamas infrastructure,” he said.

“And so we are trying to find the best way to get aid to the north and other parts of the Gaza Strip. “That’s a combination of using community groups, etc. And we can use police in a discreet way.” So.”

Shimon Freedman, spokesman for the Israel Defense Ministry’s liaison agency for Palestinian civil affairs, said the distribution of aid in Gaza was the responsibility of international organizations.

“While we assist with that distribution and we help coordinate those convoys and allow them to transit through our humanitarian corridor, the aspects of that are up to them,” he said.


Israel said on Monday it killed Brigadier General Faiq Abdulraouf Al-Mabhuh, a senior police chief in central Gaza, in a raid on Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City.

Hamas said Mabhouh was responsible for protecting and securing aid trucks in Gaza and had coordinated with the United Nations to protect aid distribution.

Hamas accused Israel of carrying out the attack “to influence the protection of aid and increase the chaos that the occupation (Israel) seeks.” Israel has rejected allegations of using starvation as a weapon of war.

The Hamas-affiliated Shehab news agency reported on Tuesday that Israel also killed another police chief, Raed Al-Bana, who was overseeing aid deliveries to Jabalia in northern Gaza. It was said that he died in a strike at his home in which his wife and children also died. Israel did not immediately comment on the report.

As part of his plans to run Gaza after the war, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has considered empowering local representatives not affiliated with Hamas or other militant groups, but it is unclear who those people might be.

Gaza has large traditional family clans linked to political factions such as Hamas and Fatah, which dominate the Palestinian Authority in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

It is generally believed that some of the larger clans are heavily armed. Some clan leaders have publicly rejected Israel’s plan, saying they cannot replace UN aid agencies helping Palestinian refugees or local authorities.

(Additional reporting by Emma Farge in Geneva and Dan Williams in Jerusalem, Writing by Michael Georgy, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

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