In a significant development following President Joe Biden’s visit to Israel, plans are underway to facilitate the entry of humanitarian aid into Gaza via the Egypt-Gaza Rafah crossing. The move comes in the wake of a deadly explosion at a hospital in Gaza, and after extensive negotiations with Israel.
President Biden, after holding extensive talks with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his war cabinet, revealed that Israel had agreed to open the Rafah crossing for the delivery of essential supplies such as food, water, and medical supplies. However, Israel’s agreement is contingent on ensuring that these supplies do not end up being diverted by Hamas for their own purposes.
President Biden emphasized the urgency of providing much-needed aid to the people of Gaza, stating, “The people of Gaza need food, water, medicine, and shelter.” He also communicated his conversations with Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, who has concurred to reopen the Rafah crossing to allow approximately 20 trucks loaded with humanitarian aid to enter Gaza.
The infrastructure around the border has been affected by Israeli strikes, and repairs are needed before aid can begin flowing into Gaza. The operation is expected to take about eight hours, making the aid’s arrival likely on Friday.
However, President Biden issued a stern warning, stating, “If Hamas diverts or misappropriates the assistance, they will have demonstrated once again that they have no concern for the welfare of the Palestinian people, and it will practically halt the international community from providing this aid.”
Supervision of aid delivery will be conducted by the United Nations, according to Sameh Shoukry, Egypt’s Foreign Minister. This development also raises hopes for the approximately 500 Palestinian Americans and thousands of other Palestinians with foreign nationalities who have been seeking to leave Gaza via the Rafah crossing.
While this agreement to allow aid through the Rafah crossing is a significant step, humanitarian organizations and the UN have stressed that the relief will still fall short of the massive humanitarian needs in Gaza, where the population of 2.3 million is at risk of dehydration, hunger, disease, and injuries due to ongoing conflicts.
Aid agencies have stockpiled life-saving supplies on the Egyptian side of the border, awaiting the opening of the Rafah crossing. The United Nations aims to restore aid deliveries to Gaza to the pre-conflict level of 100 trucks per day.
President Biden’s visit to Israel also emphasized the need for restraint amid escalating tensions. Israel has positioned a substantial military force around Gaza, and a ground invasion is anticipated. President Biden, however, suggested that such a massive assault may not be inevitable and that discussions about alternatives are ongoing between the U.S. and Israeli military.
The Biden administration remains concerned about the potential for further civilian casualties and the repercussions of a major ground offensive, including the risk of an offensive from Hezbollah in Lebanon.
The visit also saw President Biden dispelling rumors of U.S. troops joining Israeli forces in the event of an attack by Hezbollah, making it clear that there is no intention to deploy U.S. troops in combat operations on the ground.
The situation in Gaza remains dire, with thousands displaced and a significant loss of life on both sides. International efforts to provide humanitarian aid continue as leaders work towards de-escalation in the region.