"Don't starve Gaza!": Israeli activists attempt aid delivery

Bearing food aid and wearing "Don't Starve Gaza!" t-shirts, dozens of Israeli activists drove towards the border of the besieged territory on Thursday in a show of support for Palestinians.

A convoy of 30 vehicles driven by Israeli activists from the \'Standing Together\' movement gathers in the Israeli city of Ashkelon near the Gaza border in a show of support for Palestinians. Photo: © JACK GUEZ / AFP

Near Kerem Shalom, Israel (AFP): Bearing food aid and wearing "Don't Starve Gaza!" t-shirts, dozens of Israeli activists drove towards the border of the besieged territory on Thursday in a show of support for Palestinians.

The 30-vehicle convoy got within three kilometres of the Kerem Shalom border crossing before police turned it back.

Organisers had expected that outcome, and they acknowledged the convoy was a symbolic act in a society in which their focus on the plight of Palestinians places them in the minority.

The goal was to highlight "a different voice" and show "there are people in our society who feel what is happening in Gaza is unacceptable," said Nadav Shofet, a member of the Stand Together collective which planned the demonstration.

Aid groups and the United Nations are warning of looming famine in Gaza, five months after war was triggered by Hamas's deadly attack on southern Israel, which resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people, according to an AFP tally of official Israeli figures.

Israel's retaliatory military campaign to eliminate Hamas has killed at least 30,800 people, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.

While most demonstrators wore the purple "Don't starve Gaza!" t-shirts on Thursday, they also tied yellow ribbons to their side mirrors, a symbol of the campaign to bring back the hostages seized by Hamas during the October 7 attack.

The militants took around 250 people captive that day, and Israel believes 99 of them remain alive in Gaza and that 31 have died.

"Our fight against Hamas is justified," said 39-year-old speech therapist Orly Shay Keslassy, who took part in Thursday's demonstration.

"But we cannot ignore that there are millions of people that are innocent in Gaza. I can't live as an Israeli knowing that my government and some people in Israel don't want people in Gaza to have enough food."


'Pain against pain'
Despite their gesture of solidarity with the hostages, the demonstrators drew the ire of Ilan Enia, an Israeli truck driver who watched them drive off towards Kerem Shalom.

"It's a shame, a shame, to send trucks to Gaza while our soldiers are being killed," he said, using profanity to express what he thought the demonstrators could do to themselves.

Early on Thursday morning, the demonstrators gathered at a train station in Tel Aviv to prepare the convoy, packing nappies, baby formula, sugar, flour, prepared meals and dates for the upcoming Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

Among the vehicles was a seven-tonne truck filled with supplies.

The convoy took the road that passes near the Kfar Aza kibbutz and Beeri kibbutz, where almost 200 civilians were killed during the October 7 attack.

Then it went through Reim, where Hamas commandos killed 364 people at a rave music festival.

"People were killed here! Shame on you if you want to feed terrorists!" a man yelled out at them near Reim, as air strikes in Gaza could be heard in the distance.

Roy Hoschem, a member of the convoy, said "I don't think people are mean, I think people have suffered a lot. They don't have any room for empathy for other people".

Visibly shaken, Keslassy, the speech therapist, tried to explain the "big confusion" she thinks dominates Israeli society.

"We are in a pain-against-pain scenario. Hamas killed innocent people, but that's not a reason to do the same," the mother of two said.

"I want my country to be democratic and moral."

After police ordered them to turn around, the demonstrators quickly complied.

But one of the organisers, Roula Dawod, vowed with tears in her eyes that they would "try again".