US reportedly pressing Israel to ensure crossing stays open

For third day running, protesters block Gaza aid at Kerem Shalom crossing

Hundreds more expected at border crossing to demand all humanitarian aid entering Strip be cut off until Hamas frees all remaining hostages

Protesters block the Kerem Shalom border crossing, January 26, 2024 to protest aid going into Gaza while hostages are being held (courtesy)
Protesters block the Kerem Shalom border crossing, January 26, 2024 to protest aid going into Gaza while hostages are being held (courtesy)

Families of hostages held in Gaza and other protesters demonstrated at the Kerem Shalom border crossing for the third consecutive day on Friday morning, to try and prevent humanitarian aid from entering the Gaza Strip while their loved ones languish in captivity.

Hundreds more protesters were expected to arrive at the border crossing throughout the day, to demand that all humanitarian aid entering the war-torn strip be cut off until the remaining hostages abducted by Hamas on October 7 are freed and returned to Israel.

In a statement, the group of protesters said they had walked a roundabout way to avoid roadblocks set up by security forces to prevent their arrival at the border crossing.

The captives have been held since Hamas’s October 7 massacre, which saw some 3,000 terrorists burst across the border into Israel from the Gaza Strip by land, air and sea, killing some 1,200 people and seizing over 250 hostages of all ages, mostly civilians.

It was not immediately clear what impact the previous two days’ protests had on truck movements. On Wednesday the demonstrators held up over 100 trucks, some of which were eventually diverted to an alternative entry point in Egypt.

Following the protests in recent days, Biden administration officials were pressing Israel to ensure the Kerem Shalom border crossing with Gaza remains open, the Kan public broadcaster reported Thursday.

According to the report, the US officials called for the crossing to continue operating as usual and said Israel must ensure aid continues flowing into Gaza, without specifically referring to the protests.

The protests underlined the government’s narrowing space to maneuver as it faces growing international pressure to allow more humanitarian relief in Gaza, coupled with intense domestic pressure to both secure the release of the hostages and deliver military achievements in the protracted and increasingly deadly campaign.

They also came amid unconfirmed media reports of progress in indirect talks between Israel and Hamas on a ceasefire and second prisoner swap. The government is under considerable pressure, which manifests itself in weekly rallies and other actions, to prioritize the hostages’ release over its military push to dismantle Hamas.

Israel’s campaign in Gaza, aimed at destroying Hamas, has faced increasing international criticism amid a mounting Palestinian death toll and a broad humanitarian crisis in the war-torn Strip.

It is believed that 132 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. Four hostages were released prior to that, and one was rescued by troops. The bodies of eight hostages have also been recovered and three hostages were mistakenly killed by the military. The IDF has confirmed the deaths of 28 of those still held by Hamas, citing new intelligence and findings obtained by troops operating in Gaza. One more person has been listed as missing since October 7, and their fate is still unknown.

Hamas has also held 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.

Most Popular
read more: