Blinken says Rafah’s war threatens aid interests in Gaza

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken warned Wednesday that recent gains in getting much-needed humanitarian aid to people in the Gaza Strip risk being undermined by the fighting in southern Gaza.

For more than a week, since Israel began its limited military operation against Hamas in the southern city of Rafah, one border crossing crucial for aid deliveries has been closed and another Others are strictly limited.

“At a time when Israel is taking important and necessary steps to improve the delivery of humanitarian assistance, we are already seeing the negative impact on the fact that we have this conflict,” Blinken said. This positive, very positive in the region.” in the Rafah area.”

He noted that “we also saw Hamas shooting into the passageways themselves, making this more difficult.”

Mr Blinken’s comments came as Israel and Egypt blamed each other for the move close the intersection between Egypt and Gaza nearly 10 days after the Israeli army took over the Gaza side.

Hundreds of trucks in Egypt were blocked from reaching Gaza, and injured and sick people in Gaza who needed medical care outside the territory, as well as families trying to flee the war, were can’t leave.

Humanitarian officials say the entry point closures have worsened an already dire aid situation, causing prices of many food items to skyrocket and fuel to become scarce.

Israeli forces have seized the Gaza side of the Rafah crossing on the Egyptian border as part of what they described as a limited military operation against Hamas. The raid effectively closed the border crossing, although Israeli officials have signaled they are ready to reopen it.

Israel closed another border crossing – Kerem Shalom – after one Hamas rocket attack nearby killed four Israeli soldiers. It has reopened, but aid is still very limited. Egypt, which collects and delivers most of the aid to Gaza, has objected to sending trucks to Kerem Shalom, according to many officials. American and Israeli officials believe that Egypt is trying to pressure Israel to withdraw from the Rafah operation.

Israel accused Egypt of delaying the provision of aid. Egypt blames Israel for the fighting around the border, creating dangerous conditions for aid deliveries to take place. There has been heavy shelling and fighting since last week around Rafah.

Israel Katz, Israel’s Foreign Minister, said Tuesday that he had spoken with European foreign ministers about “the need to convince Egypt” to allow “continued deliveries of international humanitarian aid to Gaza.” ”.

The key to stopping the humanitarian crisis in Gaza now lies in the hands of our Egyptian friends. he say. He said Israel would not return the crossing to what he described as controlled by Hamas.

Trucks were waiting on an Egyptian road along the border with Israel, near the Rafah border crossing with Gaza, earlier this month.Credit…Oren Alon/Reuters

Sameh Shoukry, Egypt’s Foreign Minister, quickly countered, saying the border crossing remained closed because of Israel’s control of it and because its military operations were causing truck drivers and rescue workers to aid in danger. In a statement from Egypt’s Foreign Ministry, Mr Shoukry rejected what he described as a “policy of distorting the truth”.

Israeli officials rarely issue public criticism of Egypt, with which Israel maintains a decades-long peace treaty and sensitive security cooperation.

Despite international pressure, Israel launched a limited invasion of Rafah on May 6, seizing areas in the east. Even if trucks are allowed to pass through the Rafah border crossing, it is unclear whether they can move safely through eastern Rafah, where Israeli forces are fighting Hamas militants.

Israel recently opened two new routes for aid trucks directly into northern Gaza.

“We are also seeing real progress in the north, where there is more progress,” Mr. Blinken said. “But what we don’t want to see is us essentially reversing what’s happened in recent months.”

According to Wael Abu Omar, spokesman for the Palestinian side at the border gate, Palestinian workers evacuated the Kerem Shalom border gate before Israeli forces arrived. Two Palestinian officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Israel had asked the Palestinian Authority to send its staff to help manage the crossing, but not in an official capacity.

Officials said government leaders quickly rejected the proposal.

Mahmoud al-Habbash, religious affairs adviser to Mahmoud Abbas, the authority’s president, said Israel needed to withdraw from the crossing before Palestinian Authority agents took charge of running it.

“How can we work with Israeli tanks there?” he asked in an interview. “In principle, that is unacceptable, not to mention the fact that it would endanger the Palestinian people.”

The Ramallah-based Palestinian leadership also needs assurances that the return of authority to the Rafah crossing is part of a broader effort to reintegrate the administration back, al-Habbash said. Gaza.

“We do not reject the steps taken one after another, but it must be known that the Rafah crossing is part of Gaza, and the solution for the Rafah crossing is part of the solution for Gaza, and the solution for Gaza is a part of the solution for all areas of the Palestinian state,” he said.

In public statements, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has all but ruled out the possibility of the regime returning to Gaza, a prospect supported by the United States.

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