UNRWA denies Israel claims Karm Abu Salem crossing reopened for Gaza aid

AFP , AP , Wednesday 8 May 2024

Israel said it reopened the Karm Abu Salem border crossing to humanitarian aid for Gaza Wednesday, four days after closing following a rocket attack that killed four soldiers, but the UN agency for Palestinian refugees said it remained closed.

Smoke rises following an Israeli airstrike on buildings near the separating wall between Egypt and Rafah, southern Gaza Strip,May 2024. AP


"Trucks from Egypt carrying humanitarian aid, including food, water, shelter equipment, medicine and medical equipment donated by the international community are already arriving at the crossing," the occupation army said in a joint statement with COGAT, the defence ministry body that oversees Palestinian civil affairs.

The supplies will be transferred to the Gaza side of the crossing after undergoing inspection, it added.

However, the UNRWA spokeswoman Juliette Touma told AFP "the crossing is still not open." 

She said the Rafah crossing too remained closed.

"We are calling for their reopening. We normally get fuel through Rafah not Karem,"Touma said.

"There’s not been humanitarian supplies for the past three days. We have started rationing fuel," she said, adding Gaza needed 300,000 litres (79,250 gallons) of fuel a day for humanitarian purposes.

“We’re not receiving any aid into the Gaza Strip,” said Scott Anderson, deputy director of UNRWA affairs in Gaza, in a post on X.

"The Rafah crossing area has ongoing military operations - there have been continued bombardments in this area throughout the day," he added.


We’re not receiving any aid into the #GazaStrip, the #Rafah crossing area has ongoing military operations - there have been continued bombardments in this area throughout the day.

No fuel or aid has entered into #GazaStrip and this is disastrous for the humanitarian response.

— Scott Anderson (@GazaUNRWA) May 8, 2024


The Karm Abu Salem crossing was closed after a Hamas rocket attack the Israeli army killing four soldiers and wounded more than a dozen on Sunday.

An Israeli tank brigade seized the nearby Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt early Tuesday, and it remained closed.

Associated Press journalists heard sporadic explosions and gunfire in the area overnight, including two large blasts early Wednesday.

Rafah has been a vital conduit for humanitarian aid since the start of the war and is the only place where people can enter and exit. Israel now controls all of Gaza’s border crossings for the first time since it withdrew troops and settlers from the territory nearly two decades ago.

Palestinian Health Ministry says at least 46 patients and wounded people who had been scheduled to leave for medical treatment have been left stranded.

U.N. agencies and aid groups have ramped up humanitarian assistance in recent weeks as Israel has lifted some restrictions and opened an additional crossing in the north under pressure from the United States, its closest ally.

But aid workers say the closure of Rafah, which is the only gateway for the entry of fuel for trucks and generators, could have severe repercussions.

Israeli authorities have denied the UN access to the closed Rafah crossing, the main entry point for humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip, the United nations said Tuesday .

Jens Laerke, spokesman for the UN's humanitarian agency OCHA, said there was only a one-day buffer of fuel to run humanitarian operations inside the besieged Palestinian territory.

"We currently do not have any physical presence at the Rafah crossing as our access... has been denied by COGAT," he said, referring to the Israeli agency that oversees supplies into the Palestinian territories.

"We have been told there will be no crossings of personnel or goods in or out for the time being. That has a massive impact on how much stock do we have.

"There's a very, very short buffer of one day of fuel available.

"As fuel only comes in through Rafah, the one day buffer is for the entire operation in Gaza."

The U.N. says northern Gaza is already in a state of “full-blown famine.”

The operation to capture the crossing appears to have been a limited incursion, but Israel has said it will expand the operation if ongoing indirect talks with Hamas over a cease-fire and captives' release fail to make progress.

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