Egypt refusing to coordinate with Israel on entry of aid in Rafah — state media

Israeli sources tell Channel 12 they cannot bring in aid without Egyptian cooperation, fear refusal will harm IDF’s ability to operate in the area

A tank with an Israeli flag on it enters the Gazan side of the Rafah Border Crossing on May 7, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces via AP)
A tank with an Israeli flag on it enters the Gazan side of the Rafah Border Crossing on May 7, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces via AP)

Egypt has refused to coordinate with Israel on the entry of aid into Gaza from the Rafah Crossing due to Israel’s “unacceptable escalation,” Egypt’s state-affiliated Alqahera News satellite TV reported on Saturday, citing a senior official.

The official also said that Egypt held Israel responsible for the deterioration of the situation in the Gaza Strip.

On May 7, Israeli forces seized the main border crossing at Rafah, closing a vital route for aid into the besieged enclave. Israel did so as it began operations against Hamas in the Rafah area, and as negotiations for a hostage deal and truce floundered.

The military says Hamas has used the crossing for terror purposes. It is widely believed arms and other banned items are smuggled into the Strip from Egypt.

The United Nations and other international aid agencies said the closing of the two crossings into southern Gaza — Rafah and Israeli-controlled Kerem Shalom (after rocket attacks targeted that crossing) — had virtually cut the enclave off from outside.

Red Crescent sources in Egypt said shipments had completely halted.

Israeli sources told Channel 12 that Israel wants to bring in aid but cannot do so without Egyptian cooperation. Israel fears the Egyptian refusal to coordinate the entry of aid will bring intense international pressure on Israel and harm its ability to operate in Rafah.

Palestinians displaced by the war in the Gaza Strip arrive at a makeshift tent camp west of Rafah, Gaza, Friday, May 10, 2024. (AP Photo/Abdel Kareem Hana)

White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said Friday “every day that crossing is not available and usable for humanitarian assistance, there’s going to be more suffering, and that’s a deep concern to us. We urge the Israelis to open up that crossing to humanitarian assistance immediately. That aid is desperately needed, and we urge them… to be as careful, precise, and discriminate as they can.”

Meanwhile, Israel ordered new evacuations in Rafah, instructing tens of thousands more people to move as it prepares to expand its military operation closer to the heavily populated central area, in defiance of growing pressure from close ally the United States and others.

In the initial evacuation zone and other areas of Rafah, around 300,000 Palestinians have evacuated to a designated “humanitarian zone,” according to IDF assessments.

Lt. Col. Avichay Adraee, the IDF’s Arabic-language spokesman, published on Saturday morning a list of the new zones that needed to be evacuated. The IDF also dropped flyers, sent text messages and made phone calls with the evacuation instructions.

Israel’s military also said it was moving into an area of northern Gaza where it asserted that the Hamas terror group had regrouped. Adraee told Palestinians in Jabaliya and Beit Lahiya and surrounding areas to leave their homes and head to shelters in the west of Gaza City, warning that people were in “a dangerous combat zone” and that Israel would strike with “great force.”

Israel has now evacuated the eastern third of Rafah. The United Nations and others have warned that Israel’s planned full-scale Rafah invasion would cripple humanitarian operations and cause a disastrous surge in civilian casualties.

Palestinians displaced by the war in the Gaza Strip walk through a makeshift tent camp in Rafah, Gaza, Friday, May 10, 2024. (AP Photo/Abdel Kareem Hana)

Israel says it has made plans to evacuate civilians from areas of combat, and that it must tackle Hamas’s remaining battalions in Rafah in order to fully defeat the group in the enclave.

US President Joe Biden has said he will not provide offensive weapons to Israel for Rafah. Jerusalem has responded with defiance, saying it will act against the terror group alone if necessary.

More than 1.4 million Palestinians — half of Gaza’s population — have been sheltering in Rafah, most after fleeing Israel’s offensives elsewhere. The evacuations are forcing people to return north where areas are devastated from previous Israeli attacks.

In a highly anticipated report to Congress, the Biden administration said Friday it found “credible and reliable” Israeli assurances that it will use US weapons in accordance with international humanitarian law, allowing for the further transfer of American arms amid Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza.

However, in the strongest such statement from Biden officials, the US State Department report also said it was “reasonable” to assess that Israel has used US-supplied weapons since Hamas’s October 7 attack in instances that were “inconsistent” with its international humanitarian law obligations, but that it does not have complete information to verify Israeli forces did so.

The White House said Friday that the US does not believe the IDF’s operation in Rafah in recent days amounts to a wide-scale military operation.

IDF soldiers under the Givati Brigade stand atop a tank in eastern Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, in a handout picture released on May 10, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

The US has offered tepid support for the limited operation to remove Hamas from the Rafah Crossing area, but warned that its stance could shift if the offensive widened to civilian areas or if the delivery of humanitarian aid was hampered for a sustained period. That came after the White House confirmed a delay in the transfer of 2,000- and 500-pound bombs over concerns that the IDF could use them in Rafah, as it has in other parts of Gaza.

On Monday, Hamas claimed to have accepted a truce agreement with Israel, though it later emerged that the proposal it said had come from Egyptian and Qatari mediators included several elements fundamentally different from what Israel had agreed to. Jerusalem swiftly rejected the proposal for falling short of its “vital demands,” but okayed dispatching a working-level delegation to the indirect talks in Cairo.

Thick, black smoke rises from a fire in a building caused by Israeli bombardment in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on May 10, 2024. (AFP)

The specifics of the proposal Hamas said it had accepted Monday (Arabic text here) differed in numerous regards from the reported terms of what the US had hailed as an “extremely generous” Israeli offer.

Significantly, Hamas said on Monday night that it regards itself as having accepted terms for an end to the war, whereas both the Israeli-backed text and the Hamas response refer to restoring “sustainable calm.” In an introductory paragraph, however, the Hamas text says the “framework agreement aims for … a return to sustainable calm in a way that achieves a permanent ceasefire.”

Hamas added Friday it is holding consultations to reconsider its negotiating strategy in light of Israel’s rejection of its counter-proposal in the talks, and the expanding IDF operations in eastern Rafah.

Workers unload a truck in Beit Hanun in the northern Gaza Strip during an operation of humanitarian aid delivered from Jordan through the Erez border crossing, on May 1, 2024. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)

Israel has consistently said it will not accept a deal that entails a permanent ceasefire, and that it will resume its military campaign after any truce-for-hostages deal to complete its two declared war goals: freeing the hostages and destroying Hamas’s military and governance capabilities.

War broke out between Israel and Hamas following Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel which saw terrorists kill some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and kidnap 252.

It is believed that 128 hostages abducted by Hamas on October 7 remain in Gaza — not all of them alive — after 105 civilians were released from Hamas captivity during a weeklong truce in late November, and four hostages were released prior to that. Three hostages have been rescued by troops alive, and the bodies of 12 hostages have also been recovered, including three mistakenly killed by the military.

The IDF has confirmed the deaths of 36 of those still held by Hamas, citing new intelligence and findings obtained by troops operating in Gaza.

One more person is listed as missing since October 7, and their fate is still unknown.

Hamas is also holding the bodies of fallen IDF soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin since 2014, as well as two Israeli civilians, Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, who are both thought to be alive after entering the Strip of their own accord in 2014 and 2015 respectively.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry says more than 34,000 people in the Strip have been killed in the fighting so far, a figure that cannot be independently verified, does not distinguish between combatants and civilians and includes some 15,000 terror operatives Israel says it has killed in battle. Israel also says it killed some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7.

Two hundred and seventy-one soldiers have been killed during the ground offensive against Hamas and amid operations along the Gaza border.

Jacob Magid contributed to this report.

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