After intense negotiations involving the US, Israel, Egypt, and the UN, the Rafah crossing point between Egypt and Gaza has opened to allow a small amount of aid to enter for the first time in two weeks.
The delivery of 20 trucks carrying medical resources provided little relief to Gaza’s 2.3 million residents, who were under attack and had little access to food and water.
According to the agreement facilitated by the US, only 20 trucks will be permitted to enter on Saturday. These trucks will carry deliveries from the Egyptian Red Crescent to the Palestinian Red Crescent organization. Aid officials have stated that there will not be a delivery on Sunday and the next shipment is expected to be a UN convoy on Monday.
The Israeli government has requested evidence to ensure that aid deliveries are not taken or redirected by Hamas before allowing more deliveries. According to a UN representative, the procedures for confirming this are still being negotiated.
The United States Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, stated that Hamas must not disrupt the delivery of life-saving aid. He also mentioned that if this were to occur, it would impede the international community’s ability to provide assistance.
Humanitarian organizations are currently in talks with Israel in order to include fuel in their aid convoys. This fuel is necessary for hospital generators and the water desalination and pumping system in Gaza.
The Secretary General of the United Nations, António Guterres, stated at the Cairo peace summit that the citizens of Gaza require a promise for substantially more assistance – a consistent supply of aid at the appropriate level. He urged for a humanitarian truce to save Gaza from what he referred to as a “terrible ordeal.”
Guterres went to the Rafah crossing on Friday, where a significant amount of humanitarian aid was waiting for approval to enter Gaza.
“I witnessed a paradox,” he explained. “A humanitarian crisis unfolding before my eyes. On one hand, I saw countless trucks filled with food and vital resources. On the other hand, we are aware that just beyond the border, there are 2 million people lacking water, food, fuel, electricity, and medicine. These individuals include children, mothers, the elderly, and the sick. A stark contrast between full trucks on one side and empty stomachs on the other.”
The president of Egypt, Abdel Fatah el-Sisi, stated that the impromptu meeting was intended to create a plan for providing aid to those in need and to restore optimism for peace between Israel and Palestine.
The meeting took place at the luxurious and impressive new administrative hub in Cairo, and was mainly attended by leaders from Arab and European countries. Notably absent were any delegates from Israel or high-ranking officials from the Biden administration. The United States was represented by its chargé d’affaires in Cairo, Beth Jones.
During the summit, Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, who was rendered powerless in the Israel-Hamas conflict, stated that Palestinians were being forcefully evicted from both Gaza and the West Bank. He also mentioned that the growing number of settlers, with the backing of security forces, were harassing and pressuring people to leave their ancestral land in the West Bank.
Abbas stated that we will remain on our land and stand strong until the very end.
The director general of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, announced on social media that Gaza will receive a shipment of medical supplies, which will include medication for trauma, chronic diseases, and essential medicines.
He urged for the safeguarding of humanitarian groups in Gaza and continuous provision of humanitarian aid.
Before the current conflict began with a Hamas attack on Israeli civilians on October 7th, aid officials reported that an average of 500 trucks per day used to cross the Rafah border. However, in comparison, the current amount of humanitarian aid being delivered is only equivalent to twenty lorryloads.
Martin Griffiths, the United Nations’ leader in charge of humanitarian affairs and emergency assistance, expressed his belief that this shipment will initiate a continuous endeavor to offer necessary resources – such as nourishment, water, medication, and fuel – to the residents of Gaza in a secure, reliable, and unhindered manner.
Two weeks have passed since the beginning of the conflict, and the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, which was already fragile, has now reached catastrophic proportions. It is imperative that assistance is provided to those in need throughout Gaza, and at an appropriate level.
The scheduled transportation, as outlined in the current agreement with Israel, will not have any fuel. This is problematic as the hospitals rely on fuel for generators and water pumps, and the desalination plants also require it. This is especially concerning as the water supply at UN shelters has been reduced to only one liter per person per day for all needs, significantly below the minimum recommended amount according to global standards.
Last week, Egyptian and US authorities initially thought they had reached an agreement with the Israeli government to allow the opening of Rafah. However, Israel demanded guarantees that the aid shipments would be carefully inspected to ensure they contained only food, water, and medical supplies. Additionally, arrangements needed to be made within Gaza to distribute the aid without any involvement from Hamas.
Joe Biden finalized the deal while on his trip to Tel Aviv on Wednesday, however, it took an additional three days for the crossing to become operational. During this time, workers from Egypt were repairing damage caused by bombs at the crossing from the Sinai peninsula into Gaza.
As per the agreement, numerous Palestinian Americans residing in Gaza were supposed to have the opportunity to depart. However, there was no indication by Saturday afternoon that any of them had been able to cross.
Blinken stated that the safety of US citizens abroad is of utmost importance, and that the US embassy in Cairo is ready to aid these individuals.
“We are continuously striving to ensure the safe departure of citizens in Gaza from the conflict area, through collaboration with partner and allied nations.”
Riham Jafari, the coordinator for communications and advocacy at ActionAid, expressed appreciation for the aid convoy that entered Gaza this morning. However, she noted that the amount of aid being delivered is insufficient compared to the scale of the crisis. Prior to the current situation, approximately 500 aid trucks would cross the border daily, providing essential support to the millions of Gazans already experiencing a humanitarian emergency.
The trucks delivering aid did not include the necessary fuel for hospitals, ambulances, and water pumps. There are reports of communities pooling their remaining fuel to ensure that incubators are running for critically ill newborns. With 2.2 million people in Gaza experiencing a humanitarian emergency, we are urging for a ceasefire and the creation of humanitarian pathways.