After intense discussions involving the US, Israel, Egypt, and the UN, the Rafah crossing point between Egypt and Gaza has finally 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 the 2.3 million people in Gaza who are facing attacks and struggling to find food and water.
According to the agreement facilitated by the US, only 20 trucks will be permitted to enter on Saturday for the Egyptian Red Crescent to deliver supplies to the Palestinian Red Crescent organization. Aid officials stated that there will not be a delivery on Sunday, and the next shipment will be a UN convoy on Monday.
The Israeli government is requesting evidence that the aid shipments are not being taken or redirected by Hamas before allowing more deliveries. An official from the UN stated on Saturday that discussions are ongoing regarding verification procedures.
The US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, stated that Hamas must not disrupt the delivery of life-saving aid. He also warned that if this were to occur, it would prevent the international community from being able to provide assistance effectively.
Humanitarian organizations are currently in discussions with Israel to include fuel in their aid convoys. This fuel is crucial for powering hospital generators and Gaza’s systems for desalinating water and pumping it.
António Guterres, the United Nations secretary general, spoke at the Cairo peace summit and emphasized the urgent need for sustained aid to Gaza. He also urged for a humanitarian ceasefire to alleviate the dire situation in Gaza, which he described as a “terrible nightmare.”
Guterres went to the Rafah crossing on Friday, where a significant amount of humanitarian aid was ready to enter Gaza pending approval.
During my visit, I witnessed a contradiction – a crisis of humanitarian proportions unfolding before me,” he stated. “On one side, I saw a multitude of trucks loaded with vital resources such as food. However, on the other side of the border, there are 2 million individuals lacking access to basic necessities such as water, food, fuel, electricity, and medicine. These individuals include children, mothers, the elderly, and the sick. One side has full trucks, while the other side has empty stomachs.”
Egypt’s leader, Abdel Fatah el-Sisi, stated that the impromptu summit’s goal was to create a plan for providing humanitarian aid and reignite prospects for peace between Israel and Palestine.
The conference took place in Cairo’s shiny and impressive new government building, and was predominantly attended by leaders from Arab and European countries. Notably absent were representatives from Israel and the Biden administration. The United States was instead represented by its chargé d’affaires in Cairo, Beth Jones.
During the summit, Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, was relegated to a bystander in the conflict between Israel and Hamas. He stated that Palestinians in both Gaza and the West Bank are being forcibly displaced. This is due to the rising harassment from settlers, backed by security forces, which is causing more and more people to be forced off their own land.
Abbas pledged to remain on our land and stand resolute until the very end.
The director general of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, shared on social media that the supplies being sent to Gaza consist of medications for trauma, chronic diseases, and basic essential needs.
He requested the safeguarding of humanitarian workers in Gaza and continued availability of humanitarian aid.
Twenty lorryloads of supplies is a tiny proportion of the humanitarian aid that used to cross the Rafah border before the current conflict erupted with a Hamas massacre of Israeli civilians on 7 October. The daily average used to be about 500 trucks a day, aid officials said.
The United Nations’ chief of humanitarian aid and disaster relief, Martin Griffiths, stated that he believes this shipment will initiate a long-term effort to provide necessary resources – such as food, water, medicine, and fuel – to the residents of Gaza in a reliable, unrestricted, and secure manner.
The situation in Gaza has become even more dire after two weeks of fighting. It is crucial that aid is delivered to those in need throughout Gaza, and in sufficient quantities.
The scheduled convoys, as stated in the current arrangement with Israel, will not contain fuel. This fuel is crucial for powering hospital generators, operating water pumps, and running desalination plants. This is especially important as the water ration at UN shelters has decreased to one liter per person per day for all needs, which falls below the international standard for minimum consumption.
Last week, Egyptian and US authorities initially thought that they had reached an agreement with the Israeli government to open Rafah. However, Israel required guarantees that the aid shipments would be carefully inspected to ensure that they consisted solely of food, water, and medical supplies. Additionally, arrangements needed to be made within Gaza for the distribution of the aid without any involvement from Hamas.
During his visit to Tel Aviv on Wednesday, Joe Biden finalized the agreement. However, it took another three days for the crossing to open due to repairs being made by Egyptian workers after bomb damage from the Sinai peninsula into Gaza.
As part of the agreement, numerous Palestinian Americans residing in Gaza were to be granted permission to exit. However, as of Saturday afternoon, there was no indication that any had successfully crossed.
Blinken stated that the safety of US citizens abroad is of utmost importance and that the US embassy in Cairo is prepared to aid these individuals.
“We are continuously working, alongside partner and allied nations, to ensure the safe departure of Gaza citizens from the conflict zone.”
Riham Jafari, the coordinator for communications and advocacy at ActionAid, expressed her appreciation for the arrival of an aid convoy in Gaza this morning. However, she emphasized that the amount being delivered is only a small portion of what is needed. Prior to the current crisis, around 500 aid trucks would enter Gaza daily, providing essential support to the millions of people already experiencing a humanitarian crisis.
The aid trucks did not bring enough fuel to hospitals, ambulances, or for water pumps. There are reports of people donating their remaining fuel to keep incubators running for critical newborns. With 2.2 million people in Gaza facing a humanitarian crisis, we are urgently requesting a ceasefire and the opening of humanitarian routes.