Biden says humanitarian aid to Gaza via Egypt may begin as soon as Friday

US President Joe Biden speaks to members of the media during his flight returning from Israel aboard Air Force One, on October 18, 2023. (Brendan Smialowski / AFP)
US President Joe Biden speaks to members of the media during his flight returning from Israel aboard Air Force One, on October 18, 2023. (Brendan Smialowski / AFP)

US President Joe Biden says humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip via Egypt may begin as soon as Friday, following an agreement brokered with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to allow assistance into the Palestinian enclave through the Rafah crossing.

Biden said earlier that Sissi agreed to open the crossing and to let in an initial group of 20 trucks with humanitarian aid.

“He agreed to… let up to 20 trucks through to begin with,” Biden said from Air Force One while returning from a visit to Israel, where he was showing solidarity after the October 7 Hamas shock massacre of some 1,400 people, mostly civilians. Terrorists also abducted 200-250 people and are holding them captive in Gaza.

Biden clarifies that people will not be able to evacuate Gaza through Rafah, apparently in order to assuage fears in Cairo that Egypt will be asked to take in refugees from Gaza.

Egypt must still repair the road across the border that was cratered by Israeli airstrikes, he indicated. Israel bombed the Gaza-Egypt crossing following the brutal terror attack on Israeli civilians and soldiers.

Bide warned that “if Hamas confiscates it, doesn’t let it get through … then it’s going to end,” he said. The aid will start moving Friday at the earliest, White House officials said.

More than 200 trucks and some 3,000 tons of aid are positioned at or near the Rafah crossing, said the head of the Red Crescent for North Sinai, Khalid Zayed.

Biden said the UN would distribute the aid on the other side, and that a second tranche was possible depending on “how it goes.”

Biden had been due to meet Sissi on Wednesday at a four-way summit in Jordan, but it was canceled after a deadly blast at a Gaza hospital that caused anger across the Arab world. The explosion was blamed on Israel which provided evidence it was not behind the explosion.

“The bottom line is that he [Sissi] deserves some real credit because he was very accommodating,” the US president added.

Supplies will go in under supervision of the UN, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry told Al-Arabiya TV. Asked if foreigners and dual nationals seeking to leave would be let through, he said: “As long as the crossing is operating normally and the (crossing) facility has been repaired.”

Netanyahu’s office said the decision was approved after a request from Biden. It said Israel “will not thwart” deliveries of food, water or medicine from Egypt, as long as they are limited to civilians in the south of the Gaza Strip and don’t go to Hamas terrorists. The statement made no mention of fuel, which is badly needed for hospital generators.

Relatives of some of the roughly 200 people who were taken hostage and forced into Gaza during the attack reacted with fury to the aid announcement.

“Children, infants, women, soldiers, men, and elderly, some with serious illnesses, wounded and shot, are held underground like animals,” said a statement from the Hostage and Missing Families Forum. But “the Israeli government pampers the murderers and kidnappers.”

Biden clarified that people will not be able to evacuate Gaza through Rafah, apparently in order to assuage fears in Cairo that Egypt will be asked to take in refugees from Gaza.

The UN earlier today said that roughly 100 trucks of aid per day will be needed to rehabilitate Gaza following the Israeli counter-attacks.

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