White House ‘urgently’ pressing Israel to reopen Gaza crossing for aid deliveries

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

Illustrative: A fuel truck enters the Gaza Strip through the Kerem Shalom crossing with Israel, in Rafah in the southern Palestinian enclave, following a truce, on August 8, 2022. (SAID KHATIB / AFP)
Illustrative: A fuel truck enters the Gaza Strip through the Kerem Shalom crossing with Israel, in Rafah in the southern Palestinian enclave, following a truce, on August 8, 2022. (SAID KHATIB / AFP)

The Biden administration doubles down on its request that Israel reopen the Kerem Shalom Crossing so that more aid can be delivered into Gaza.

Israel did agree to begin conducting inspections of aid trucks at Kerem Shalom yesterday, but a White House National Security Council spokesperson tells The Times of Israel that this step is insufficient on its own.

“We have made this request for quite some time now, the spokesperson says, noting that US President Joe Biden raised the request during his call with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier this week.

“The Israeli government’s answer has been that they can build the capacity of Rafah to get enough humanitarian assistance in, but [we] have definitively reached the conclusion that that is not the case,” the NSC spokesperson says.

“It is a question we are making with a level of urgency and immediacy now, that we would hope for a response from the Israeli government on soon,” the spokesperson adds. “Kerem Shalom should be open indefinitely, but at the least it should be open for as long as there is the humanitarian need.”

Discussing the matter earlier this week, Netanyahu did not rule out the possibility that he would heed the US request, acknowledging that Israel’s international bandwidth to prosecute the war against Hamas is greater when it allows more aid into Gaza.

In the early days of the war, Netanyahu took a different approach, asserting that no aid would be allowed into Gaza, as long as the hostages remain there.

But after a two-week siege and mounting international pressure, Israel agreed to allow aid to come in through Egypt’s Rafah crossing.

It later agreed to allow fuel in as well, with Netanyahu arguing that Israel would have to stop fighting if disease began to spread in the Strip.

However, Kerem Shalom has remained closed since the war’s outbreak, as Jerusalem has sought to “disconnect” from Gaza more directly.

Israel has argued in recent days that it has the capabilities in place to allow in more aid and that the bottleneck is due to Egypt and UN, but the NSC spokesperson appears to reject that argument.

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