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What aid is Germany sending to Gaza?

April 5, 2024

Israel is temporarily reopening some aid routes into Gaza. Though Germany is still providing aid, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has called the aerial aid packages a "drop in the ocean."

A truck carrying humanitarian aid bound for the Gaza Strip
Few trucks carrying humanitarian aid are able to make it into the Gaza StripImage: Carlos Garcia Rawlins/REUTERS

Earlier this week, seven members of the international aid organization World Central Kitchen were killed in an Israeli attack. The aid workers were trying to reduce the suffering of the estimated 2.4 million people in the Gaza Strip. The shocking news, which drew international condemnation, has again highlighted the difficulty of getting international aid, including aid from Germany, to those trapped in the war zone.

For weeks, German aid groups have increasingly voiced their concern that the help they are able to provide is extremely limited. Gerda Hasselfeldt, president of the German Red Cross, isn't prone to exaggeration, which makes her description of the situation in Gaza as "truly catastrophic" all the more startling.

Israel admits to strike that killed Gaza aid workers

Hasselfeldt, a former German health minister and politician with the conservative Christian Social Union, recently told the public broadcaster Deutschlandfunk that the relief supplies passing through the very limited crossings into Gaza were insufficient.

"Everything is lacking. And with increasing threats and fighting, as well as announcements of further attacks, the situation is becoming even more precarious," she said.

Getting aid to Gaza remains difficult

Hasselfeldt, who has led the German Red Cross since 2017, cannot say exactly how much her organization has provided in Gaza since the October 7 terrorist attacks by Islamist militant group Hamas in Israel.

However, she said it has "already delivered several planeloads of relief supplies via Egypt to the Gaza Strip." Cargo on the planes included food, medical equipment and hygienic supplies.

Development cooperation between Germany and other countries is traditionally carried out by the government or government-owned agencies such as the German Corporation for International Cooperation (GIZ), which is tasked with implementing projects run by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. 

Ministry spokesperson Katja Hummel told DW that organizations such as GIZ do not maintain permanent staff from Germany in Gaza. Before the Hamas terrorist attacks, GIZ employees stationed in the West Bank city of Ramallah or staff sent from Germany checked on the progress of projects in the enclave.

"Such staff trips to the Gaza Strip will not be possible until further notice, due to the current situation," said Hummel.

Church groups work with local helpers

The same is true for German church aid organizations, such as Catholic charity Caritas International.

"That's not our approach, in any case," said spokesperson Achim Reinke. "We always work with local helpers." But Caritas, which is closely networked with other Catholic groups around the world, also provides an insight into the catastrophic situation.

Reinke said he believes the fact that the German army is now participating in an airlift from Jordan to drop aid packages over the war zone shows how desperate the situation is.

"It's basically a sign of powerlessness," he said. "Such drops only reach the strongest of the strong, if they reach them at all. The elderly and people with disabilities get absolutely nothing from them."

Onboard an aid airdrop mission in Gaza

Reinke said aid transport over land or sea would be more effective, but that these, too, would increasingly face risks. Such transports are currently limited, as Israel closed many crossings into Gaza following the Hamas attacks.

Since mid-March, Germany has been involved in dropping aid packages by plane to the desperate population in Gaza. Two Hercules transport aircraft from the Franco-German air transport squadron were transferred from their base in Normandy to Jordan to support the airlift.

The German Bundeswehr's aircraft are equipped with French parachute systems for dropping aid supplies, and the crew comprises both German and French personnel. Observers in Jordan have reported concerns that some of the aid supplies could "trickle away" there.

During her most recent trip to the Middle East last week, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock described the airlift aid packages as "a drop in the ocean." While in Egypt, Baerbock emphasized the importance of land border crossings for supplying aid.

"Egypt plays an incredibly important role, especially in fighting hunger," she said, adding that most food aid that reaches people in Gaza enters the enclave at the Rafah border crossing.

New funds for Gaza

The Foreign Ministry's website also states that the humanitarian situation in Gaza remains catastrophic –– particularly in the north. Basic services for the civilian population have collapsed. There is a lack of essentials — food, water and medical care.

At the moment, the total German aid for the Palestinian territories –– not only in Gaza –– amounts to around €250 million ($270 million). Of that, €175 million have been approved since October 7, 2023.

Foreign Minister Baerbock in Israel, speaking with aid workers next to a truck
Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (center) has described the aid being sent to Gaza as a 'drop in the ocean'Image: Christoph Soeder/dpa/picture alliance

German payments to  UNRWA, the UN's relief agency for Palestinians, have been halted since the beginning of 2024, after the Israeli government accused 12 of the agency's some 13,000 Gazan employees of helping Hamas during the October 7 terrorist attacks. The organization has since fired those employees.

Fifteen other countries have since stopped payments to UNRWA, including the United States, its biggest donor. Germany did announce a few weeks ago that it would provide €45 million for UNRWA's regional work in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the West Bank.

This article was originally written in German.

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Jens Thurau Jens Thurau is a senior political correspondent covering Germany's environment and climate policies.@JensThurau