Israeli delegation visits Cairo in bid to mend growing rift over capture of Rafah Crossing

No word on progress after countries traded accusations on closure of key crossing for Gaza aid

File - People holding Israeli flags stand in front of trucks carrying humanitarian aid as they try to stop them from entering the Gaza Strip near the Kerem Shalom border crossing, May 9, 2024. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)
File - People holding Israeli flags stand in front of trucks carrying humanitarian aid as they try to stop them from entering the Gaza Strip near the Kerem Shalom border crossing, May 9, 2024. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

An Israeli delegation visited Cairo on Wednesday in an attempt to ease a mounting rift between Israel and Egypt in the wake of the Israel Defense Forces’ capture of the Rafah Border Crossing in Gaza last week, Hebrew media reported.

According to Ynet, the delegation, led by Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories chief Maj. Gen. Ghassan Alian, tried to convince Egypt to renew shipments of humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip via the Kerem Shalom Crossing.

The shipments ceased when the IDF began its incursion into Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah and captured the Gazan side of city’s border crossing into Egypt.

The delegation, whose roster also contained senior Shin Bet security officials, returned to Israel on the day it arrived, and it is unclear whether progress on the issue was made.

Israel recently launched what it has described as a “precise” operation to uproot the terror group Hamas from Rafah, which is considered its last remaining major stronghold. However, a major offensive there faces strong international opposition, including from the United States, as over a million Gazans are sheltering in the city and its surroundings, having fled there from fighting in other areas of Gaza.

The eroding relations between Israel and Egypt were exacerbated when Israel captured the Gaza side of the Rafah Crossing with Egypt, a major conduit for humanitarian aid into the enclave. Egyptian officials found it particularly galling that the Israeli flag was raised at the site, the Haaretz daily reported on Tuesday.

Since then, Egypt has ended coordination for aid trucks to pass from its territory into Gaza, insisting that the other side of the crossing be under Palestinian control.

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)

The hold-up is worsening the humanitarian crisis in Gaza caused by the war.

On Tuesday, Foreign Minister Israel Katz called for Egypt to resume sending humanitarian aid through the Rafah Crossing.

“The world is placing the responsibility for the humanitarian issue on Israel, but the key to preventing a humanitarian crisis is now in the hands of our Egyptian friends,” Katz said. “Hamas will not control the Rafah Crossing. This is a security need we won’t compromise on.”

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry denounced the remarks, saying in a statement that Israel’s seizure of the crossing, as well as its military operations in the area, are the main reasons for aid not entering Gaza.

Israel is said to have looked at giving the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority control over the crossing, but the PA has refused. Such a move would also likely face stiff opposition from far-right factions in the Israeli government who reject the idea of giving the PA a foothold in Gaza. According to Walla, Israel is still inquiring with the PA whether such a maneuver could occur, but no breakthroughs in the talks have occurred.

In Tuesday’s Haaretz report, senior Israeli officials said they fear Egypt may cease mediating between Jerusalem and the Hamas terror group regarding a Gaza truce and hostage deal and have warned that the military and intelligence cooperation between the countries will be harmed if the current crisis continues.

The report came after Cairo said Sunday it will join South Africa’s genocide case against Israel in the International Court of Justice, and after Egyptian sources threatened that the Israeli offensive in Gaza’s Rafah could endanger the 1979 peace accord between the countries.

Egypt, along with Qatar and the US, has been mediating negotiations between Israel and Hamas during the war, which started on October 7 when the Palestinian terror group led a massive cross-border attack on Israel that killed some 1,200 people and saw 252 kidnapped into Gaza.

Negotiations have focused on putting in place a ceasefire of several weeks that would increase humanitarian aid to Gaza and see the release of hostages, of whom 128 are still in captivity, some believed no longer alive. Israel has insisted that, no matter what, it will continue the war until it achieves its goal of destroying Hamas.

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