Rafah border crossing opens for humanitarian aid to Gaza

Ahram Online , Saturday 21 Oct 2023

The Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip finally opened on Saturday, allowing 20 trucks carrying humanitarian aid including food and medical supplies, from multiple regional and international parties, to deliver aid to 2.3 million Palestinians in the strip.

Gaza Strip
People gather around trucks carrying humanitarian aid that entered the Gaza Strip from Egypt via the Rafah border crossing on October 21, 2023. The first of 20 trucks carrying humanitarian aid entered the war-torn and besieged Gaza Strip on October 21 through the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, said AFP correspondents on both sides. AFP


Meanwhile, Palestinian Red Crescent trucks were waiting on the Palestinian side of the border crossing to haul aid delivered into the strip.

According to an agreement, the Egyptian Red Crescent would deliver the aid to the Palestinian Red Crescent.

A UN official said that the next convoy might not be allowed to cross until Monday.

 However, Gaza is still facing continued prevention of fuel entry by Israel.

Red Crescent trucks on the Palestinian side of the border

The UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths said in a statement on Saturday that the humanitarian situation in Gaza “has reached catastrophic levels."

“The international community cannot continue to fail them,” he warned regarding it as “critical” that sufficient aid reaches people across Gaza.

The delivery follows days of intense negotiations with all relevant sides to make sure that aid operation into Gaza resumes as quickly as possible and with the right conditions.

He affirmed that this delivery will be the start of a sustainable effort to provide essential supplies – including food, water, medicine, and fuel – to the people of Gaza, in a safe, dependable, unconditional, and unimpeded manner.

The border crossing had been closed for the past 15 days, with Israel imposing a total blockage on the Gaza Strip, depriving 2.3 million Palestinians of food, water, and fuel, and putting Gaza at risk of a humanitarian catastrophe.

Immediately after the war broke out, Egypt mobilized a massive effort to send hundreds of tons of food and medical supplies, donated by Egypt and various Arab governments, to relieve Palestinians in Gaza.

Since then, dozens of trucks carrying assistance aid have been stuck on the Egyptian side of the Rafah border waiting to cross into Gaza.

UN agencies, such as the World Health Organization, the World Food Program, and UNICEF, along with partner organizations like the Red Cross and Red Crescent groups, are coordinating the delivery of much-needed supplies.

Their aid includes medical supplies like amputation kits, intubation kits, and wound dressings, as well as food, including high-energy biscuits and canned goods that do not require cooking.

However, there are ongoing negotiations about whether fuel will be allowed into Gaza.

On Thursday, during a phone call, President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and US President Joe Biden reached an agreement for the sustained entry of humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip through the Rafah border crossing.

On Friday, El-Sisi conveyed his appreciation for President Biden's and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's endeavours to persuade Israel to permit the reopening of the Rafah border crossing during a meeting with Sunak in Cairo.

He added that this action was pivotal in addressing the damage caused by recent bombings and enabling the delivery of aid to the Gaza Strip.

Earlier, Egypt's Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry described as "unacceptable" any attempts to misrepresent Egypt’s position on the Rafah border crossing, asserting that the crossing has never been officially closed by Egypt.

"The crossing has been subject to 4 aerial bombings by the Israeli side and hence it's not functioning normally," Shoukry has recently said in an interview with BBC World Service, as life-saving aid provided to the war-torn Gaza Strip is still being held until an agreement on delivery is reached.

In a separate interview with CNN, Shoukry stated that four Egyptian workers were injured due to the Israeli military's shelling of the Rafah border crossing.

Since the war broke out, Israel has been carrying out numerous airstrikes, resulting in the death of 4,374 Palestinians, including more than 1,000 children, and the injury of 13,162 others.

Foreigners' status in Gaza

On Saturday morning, the US embassy in Jerusalem announced that it received information about the Rafah border crossing opening time; however, the embassy noted that the duration of opening the crossing to foreign citizens remains uncertain.

The embassy also expects a substantial influx of individuals once the border is opened and urges US citizens seeking to enter Egypt to prepare for a "potentially chaotic and disorderly environment" on both sides of the crossing. 

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