Aid starts flowing into Gaza from Egypt via Israel’s Kerem Shalom Crossing

Egyptian Red Crescent says 200 aid trucks, including four fuel tankers, to enter coastal enclave over course of day; IDF says aid deliveries to Gaza nearly doubled last week

Egyptian aid truck seen entering the Gaza Strip via the Kerem Shalom Crossing, May 26, 2024. (Social media/X. Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Humanitarian aid began entering the Gaza Strip from Egypt via Israel’s Kerem Shalom Crossing on Sunday, two days after Washington and Cairo agreed on the move to jumpstart Egypt supplies after they had been halted amid a diplomatic spat over control of the more accessible Rafah crossing point.

About 200 aid trucks, including four fuel trucks, were expected to enter Gaza, said Khaled Zayed, the head of the Egyptian Red Crescent Society in North Sinai, to Reuters.

The aid trucks were reaching Gaza through the Kerem Shalom Crossing after being rerouted from the Rafah Crossing following an agreement between Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and US President Joe Biden.

It came as the Israel Defense Forces said that last week over 2,000 aid trucks entered Gaza via Israel, including through Kerem Shalom. That aid is shipped after arriving at Israeli ports or being trucked across Israel from Jordan.

Delivery of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip has been disrupted by the ongoing war against Hamas in the coastal enclave, which began when the Palestinian terror group led a devastating attack on Israel on October 7. Aid groups and the United Nations have warned of a crisis that is pushing some areas of Gaza toward famine.

Aid has been piling up in Egypt since Israel launched an operation to take over the Gazan side of the Rafah Crossing with Egypt on May 7. That crossing, in the southern Gaza Strip, was operated by the Palestinians on its Gaza side until Israeli forces captured the area as part of a broader operation in the adjoining city of the same name.

Not wanting to be seen as complicit with Israel’s military operation to take over the crossing, Egypt has refused to reopen Rafah until Israeli troops have withdrawn from the other side.

Some food supplies bound for Gaza have begun to rot with the Rafah crossing closed.

The holdup led to recriminations between Israel and Egypt, straining ties between the countries, which made peace in 1979.

The US and Israel had urged Cairo to allow the growing amount of aid in Egypt to be transferred to Israel where it can be delivered into Gaza through Kerem Shalom.

Egypt had refused, still deeming such a move as collaboration with Israel’s military offensive in Rafah.

That stance led to rare criticism from the Biden administration, which had until this week only offered praise of Egypt’s role in the war — both as a mediator and as a facilitator of aid.

But Sissi and Biden agreed in a phone call on Friday to temporarily send humanitarian aid and fuel via Kerem Shalom Crossing until legal mechanisms were in place to reopen the Rafah crossing from the Palestinian side.

The Palestinian Authority also gave its public backing to Egypt’s decision. Cairo appeared to have requested a statement of support from PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s office to present its decision as being made in full coordination with Ramallah.

IDF troops and tanks on the Gazan side of the Rafah border crossing on May 7, 2024 (Israel Defense Forces)

In an effort to break the impasse earlier this month, Israel quietly asked the PA to take over the Gaza side of the Rafah Crossing instead of Hamas.

However, Israel conditioned the offer on officers not identifying themselves as part of the PA due to fears that this would spark opposition from far-right members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition, a US official told The Times of Israel.

The offer was rejected by Ramallah, which said it would not comply unless Israel agreed to establish a pathway to a future Palestinian state — a nonstarter for the hardline government in Jerusalem, the US official added.

Since that rejection, Israel and Egypt have been in talks about having Palestinians not directly affiliated with Hamas or the PA running the Rafah Crossing with assistance from international organizations, the US official said.

IDF: 2,065 trucks of aid transferred to Gaza this week

Meanwhile, in its weekly summary Sunday of humanitarian efforts in the Gaza Strip, the Israeli military highlighted the minimal impact of a US-built floating pier used to bring aid in via the sea.

According to the IDF, a total of 1,806 pallets of food were brought into Gaza via the pier last week and were transferred in 127 trucks to logistics centers belonging to international aid organizations in the Strip.

The pier began operating last week for the first time. Over the weekend, two US vessels involved in the pier project broke loose and ran aground near Ashdod in Israel.

In contrast, a total of 2,065 trucks carrying humanitarian aid were inspected by Israeli authorities and transferred to Gaza via the Kerem Shalom and “Erez West” crossings this week, which the IDF said was “almost twice the number in the previous week.”

The IDF said the aid trucks included “232 trucks containing flour for the World Food Program (WFP) organization to supply bakeries in the Gaza Strip, 132 aid trucks from Jordan, and 352,000 liters of diesel and fuel to supply essential centers, hospitals, and shelters run by the international community in Gaza.”

Aid group USAID, which has been working to supply Gaza, says 600 truckloads of food, emergency nutritional treatments, and other supplies are needed each day to address the humanitarian crisis brought on by the seven-month-old Israel-Hamas war.

Accusations of severe food insecurity, malnutrition, and even famine have formed an integral part of the allegations against Israel of genocide in the International Court of Justice and of crimes against humanity and war crimes in the International Criminal Court. Israel has strenuously denied all the allegations.

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