Israel opens 3rd crossing into northern Gaza to ‘increase aid routes’ during war

Dozens of WFP flour trucks enter Strip via Western Erez Crossing, which complements two other entrances into Strip’s battered north

Israel on Sunday announced the opening of a new crossing into the northern Gaza Strip for humanitarian aid deliveries, the third crossing enabling the passage of aid to the Strip’s north.

The so-called Western Erez Crossing is located in the Zikim area, on the coast abutting the Strip’s northern border, the Israeli military and the Defense Ministry’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) said.

Built by IDF engineering units along with the Defense Ministry’s engineering department and Crossings Authority, the crossing was opened “as part of the effort to increase aid routes to the Gaza Strip, and to the northern Gaza Strip in particular,” the military said.

The army said dozens of trucks ferrying flour from the United Nations’ World Food Program had been delivered from Ashdod Port to the Gaza Strip through the new crossing after “undergoing security checks.”

After Hamas’s shock October 7 assault on the Gaza border communities, in which nearly 1,200 people were killed and over 250 abducted, Israel stopped the transfer of almost all aid shipments into the Gaza Strip, easing the blockade only gradually over the following months.

As the humanitarian situation in the Strip deteriorated, Israel faced mounting international pressure to accelerate the transfer of supplies into the embattled enclave, where hunger conditions reached famine levels, according to the United Nations. Aid organizations said that the northern Gaza Strip, where Israel’s ground offensive began, is especially difficult to reach.

Currently, three crossings are actively being used to transfer humanitarian aid from Israel to Palestinians in the northern Gaza Strip: Western Erez, opened on Sunday; Eastern Erez, opened earlier this month adjacent to the existing Erez Crossing; and Gate 96, the military’s entrance to central Gaza’s Netzarim Corridor, used for the first time for aid deliveries in March.

In southern Gaza, the Kerem Shalom Crossing is being used for humanitarian aid deliveries, while the Nitzana Crossing with Egypt is being used to inspect some of the trucks.

The Rafah Crossing between Egypt and Gaza, the Strip’s main entrance for humanitarian aid since the war began, is currently closed during the IDF operations in the area, making additional openings into Gaza critical, especially in the event of a full-scale offensive on Rafah, which Israel says is essential for dismantling Hamas.

Besides land crossings, humanitarian aid is also being delivered via airdrops, and the United States is due to begin deliveries via a floating pier off the coast of central Gaza soon.

Activists from the right-wing Tzav 9 movement, who have attempted to block aid from entering Gaza on several occasions, critical of the transfer of supplies while hostages remain in Hamas captivity, panned the opening of the new border crossing, calling its announcement on the eve of Memorial Day a “shameful” act.

File: Activists from ‘Tzav 9’ block the Kerem Shalom crossing with southern Gaza to prevent humanitarian aid from entering the Strip, January 28, 2024. (Courtesy: Tzav 9)

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant had announced in April Israel’s intent to construct the crossing into Gaza’s much-battered north, saying Israel planned to “flood” the Strip with some 500 aid trucks a day — about the number that had entered Gaza daily before the war.

Jacob Magid contributed to this report.

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