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Egypt Opens Rafah Crossing, Permitting Limited Aid Into Besieged Gaza

by Chloe Baker
7 comments
Israel-Hamas conflict

For the first time since Israel imposed a blockade following the recent violent escalation by Hamas, the border crossing between Egypt and Gaza was opened on Saturday, allowing a small volume of much-needed humanitarian aid into the beleaguered Palestinian enclave.

The 2.3 million inhabitants of Gaza, half of whom have been displaced, face acute shortages, rationing food and relying on contaminated water. Local hospitals are reporting dwindling medical supplies and fuel for essential generators as the region experiences an all-encompassing power outage. Israeli airstrikes persist, decimating entire neighborhoods, while Palestinian militants retaliate with rocket attacks on Israel.

The border reopening is the culmination of over a week of diplomatic efforts involving high-level figures, such as U.S. President Joe Biden and U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. Israel had stipulated that no aid would enter Gaza unless about 200 individuals captured by Hamas were released. The Palestinian-controlled side of the crossing had also been disabled due to Israeli airstrikes.

Egypt’s state-affiliated Al-Qahera news outlet reported that merely 20 aid trucks were able to enter Gaza on Saturday, a fraction of the 200 trucks loaded with approximately 3,000 tons of aid that had been stationed near the crossing for several days. Multiple foreign nationals also awaited permission to evacuate from Gaza into Egypt.

Cindy McCain, the director of the U.N.’s World Food Program, deemed the aid inadequate, emphasizing the dire conditions in Gaza and calling for a sustained and increased flow of assistance. Meanwhile, the Hamas-administered government in Gaza stated that the scant convoy could not rectify the humanitarian disaster and urged for a continually operating safe passage.

Israeli military spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari asserted that the humanitarian situation in Gaza was manageable and specified that aid would only be directed to the southern parts of Gaza, where residents have been advised to move. No fuel supplies would be allowed into the region.

Addressing an international summit in Cairo, Antonio Guterres articulated the growing concerns for Gaza’s civilian population. He stated that while Hamas’ recent attack on Israel was condemnable, it did not warrant collective punishment against the Palestinian people.

Shortly before the border reopening, Hamas freed an American woman and her teenage daughter, marking the first such release following the militant group’s incursion into Israel on October 7. While the exact connection between the release and the border opening remains unclear, the two were released for “humanitarian reasons” as part of a deal with Qatar, a nation frequently involved in regional mediation.

Gaza continues to bear the brunt of relentless airstrikes, with the local Health Ministry reporting that 345 individuals have been killed in the last 24 hours, and seven hospitals rendered nonfunctional due to damages or fuel shortages.

According to the same ministry, over 4,100 people have lost their lives in Gaza, a figure that includes a disputed toll from a recent hospital explosion. A further 1,400 are presumed to be buried under the rubble.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi hosted a summit on Saturday, advocating for humanitarian aid, a cease-fire, and the resumption of peace talks between Israel and Palestine, which have been stalled for over a decade.

King Abdullah II of Jordan criticized Israel’s conduct in Gaza as a “war crime” and expressed dissatisfaction with the international community’s response.

The European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, along with Britain, France, and Germany, welcomed the opening of the Rafah crossing as a significant initial measure to alleviate the suffering of innocent civilians.

The World Health Organization revealed that four of the 20 trucks that entered Gaza were carrying crucial medical supplies sufficient for 300,000 people for three months.

This report was compiled by journalists based in Cairo and Jerusalem, with contributions from Isabel DeBre in Jerusalem and Bassem Mroue in Beirut for Big Big News.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Rafah crossing opens

What prompted the opening of the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza?

The Rafah crossing was opened following more than a week of high-level diplomatic interventions, including visits by U.S. President Joe Biden and U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. Israel had initially insisted on conditions such as the release of individuals captured by Hamas before allowing aid to enter Gaza.

How many trucks carrying aid were allowed into Gaza through the Rafah crossing?

Only 20 trucks were allowed into Gaza, out of more than 200 that had been positioned near the crossing, carrying roughly 3,000 tons of aid.

What is the humanitarian situation in Gaza?

The 2.3 million inhabitants of Gaza are facing severe shortages, with many displaced from their homes. Hospitals are low on medical supplies, and there is a territory-wide power blackout. Israeli airstrikes continue to damage infrastructure, and Palestinian militants are firing rockets into Israel.

What has been the response from international organizations?

Cindy McCain, the director of the U.N.’s World Food Program, stated that the aid was insufficient and called for a sustained and increased flow of assistance. The World Health Organization reported that four of the 20 trucks carried medical supplies sufficient for 300,000 people for up to three months.

Were any hostages released by Hamas?

Shortly before the Rafah crossing was opened, Hamas released an American woman and her teenage daughter. They were the first captives to be freed following Hamas’ incursion into Israel on October 7. The reason cited for their release was “humanitarian reasons,” as part of a deal with Qatar.

What are the casualty figures in Gaza?

The Hamas-run Health Ministry reported that 345 individuals were killed in Gaza in the last 24 hours alone. More than 4,100 people have been reported killed in Gaza since the conflict began, a figure that includes a disputed toll from a recent hospital explosion.

What did international leaders say about the conflict?

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi called for humanitarian aid, a cease-fire, and the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. King Abdullah II of Jordan criticized Israel’s actions as a “war crime” and questioned the international community’s response.

What is the status of medical facilities in Gaza?

Seven hospitals in Gaza are reported to be out of service after either being damaged in airstrikes or running out of fuel.

Are there any concerns about a second front opening up?

Yes, Israel has also traded fire along its northern border with Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group, adding concerns about a potential second front in the conflict.

More about Rafah crossing opens

  • United Nations Official Statement on Gaza
  • U.S. Department of State Briefing on Middle East Diplomacy
  • World Health Organization Update on Gaza Medical Supplies
  • Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Press Release
  • Hamas-run Health Ministry Casualty Reports
  • World Food Program Statement on Gaza Aid Needs
  • Israeli Defense Ministry Briefing on Conflict
  • Human Rights Watch Report on Gaza Crisis
  • Jordan’s King Abdullah II Official Remarks
  • European Commission Statement on Gaza Aid
  • Big Big News Coverage of Gaza Conflict

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7 comments

Michael O'Brien October 21, 2023 - 9:19 pm

the numbers are staggering, over 4100 dead in Gaza alone. And yet, international leaders are slow to act.

Reply
Brian Taylor October 21, 2023 - 10:51 pm

Hospitals out of service, people displaced, this is a catastrophe. The aid is insufficient but its better than nothing, I guess.

Reply
Karen Lee October 22, 2023 - 12:28 am

What about Israel’s side? Article mentions rockets fired into Israel but what’s the toll there? Balance is key in reporting.

Reply
Timothy Allen October 22, 2023 - 12:29 am

So much for a cease-fire. Even with diplomats visiting and talking, the situation is worsening by the day. Just hopeless.

Reply
Sarah Connor October 22, 2023 - 5:53 am

So, Hamas releases two hostages and then the crossing opens? Seems like theres a connection, even if it’s not directly stated.

Reply
Emily Williams October 22, 2023 - 8:42 am

Why’s it always politics over human lives? High-level diplomacy for a week and still, people are suffering. It’s just not right.

Reply
John Smith October 22, 2023 - 8:48 am

I can’t believe only 20 trucks got through. This is a crisis and that’s the best they could do?

Reply

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