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Israel and Egypt row over reopening Rafah border crossing

  • By Natasha Preskey
  • BBC News

Image source, Getty Images

Legend, Palestinians pack their belongings as they prepare to flee Rafah, southern Gaza

Israel and Egypt are feuding over the Rafah border crossing, blaming each other for its continued closure as the humanitarian crisis in Gaza worsens.

Israeli forces took control of the Gaza side of the crossing.

On Tuesday, Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz said he had informed Britain and Germany of “the need to persuade Egypt to reopen” the crossing.

But Egypt says it is Israeli military operations in the region that are preventing aid from getting through.

Cairo said Israel was trying to shift blame for blocking aid.

Mr Katz said the Palestinian armed group Hamas, which attacked southern Israel on October 7 last year, sparking the current war, could no longer “control the Rafah crossing”, citing security concerns. on which Israel “will not compromise”.

“The world blames Israel for the humanitarian situation, but the key to averting a humanitarian crisis in Gaza now lies in the hands of our Egyptian friends,” Mr. Katz wrote on X.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry quickly responded to these comments with a statement emphasizing his “categorical rejection of the policy of distortion of facts and disavowal of responsibility adopted by Israel.”

Mr. Shoukry asserted that Israel was “solely responsible for the humanitarian catastrophe currently being suffered by Palestinians in Gaza”, which he said was “the direct result of indiscriminate Israeli atrocities committed against Palestinians for more than seven months.” .

He called on Israel to “fulfill its legal responsibility as the occupying power by allowing access to aid through land ports that are under its control.”

Egypt was one of the mediators in the stalled ceasefire talks, but its relations with Israel have been strained since Israel seized the Palestinian side of the Rafah crossing on May 7.

António Guterres, Secretary-General of the UN, said in a statement “dismayed by the escalation of military activity by the Israeli Defense Forces in Rafah and its surroundings.”

Reiterating calls for a ceasefire and the opening of the Rafah crossing, he continued: “These developments further hamper humanitarian access and worsen an already dire situation.

“At the same time, Hamas continues to fire rockets indiscriminately. Civilians must be respected and protected at all times, in Rafah and elsewhere in Gaza. For Gazans, no place is safe anymore.”

The United Nations and international humanitarian agencies said the closure of the Rafah crossing and the Kerem Shalom crossing between Israel and southern Gaza had virtually cut off the Gaza Strip from outside aid.

Last week, US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said it was Israel’s duty to keep the Rafah crossing open and operational.

In early May, Cindy McCain, head of the United Nations food agency, said she believed there was a “widespread famine” in northern Gaza that was “moving south.”

In its latest update, Cogat – the Israeli military agency responsible for coordinating aid access to Gaza – said 64 aid trucks entered Gaza on Sunday, a significant drop from the daily number of trucks entered in April.

Also on Sunday, Egypt announced that it would intervene to support South Africa’s case against Israel at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), based on Israel’s increased military activity in Gaza and its impact on civilians.

South Africa on Friday asked the ICJ to order Israel to withdraw from Rafah as an additional emergency measure in the case, which accuses Israel of acts of genocide.

Israel said it would continue planned military operations in Rafah despite warnings from the United States and other allies that a ground offensive could result in high civilian casualties.

The Israeli military has asked residents of Rafah to move to al-Mawasi – a narrow coastal area that Israel calls an “expanded humanitarian zone” – and to Khan Younis, which is largely in ruins after a previous military incursion Israeli there.

Israel launched a military campaign in Gaza after the Hamas attack on southern Israel on October 7, in which around 1,200 people were killed and 252 others taken hostage, according to Israeli authorities.

Since then, more than 34,900 people have been killed in Gaza, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.

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With a penchant for words, jack began writing at an early age. As editor-in-chief of his high school newspaper, he honed his skills telling impactful stories. Smith went on to study journalism at Columbia University, where he graduated top of his class.After interning at the New York Times, jack landed a role as a news writer. Over the past decade, he has covered major events like presidential elections and natural disasters. His ability to craft compelling narratives that capture the human experience has earned him acclaim.Though writing is his passion, jack also enjoys hiking, cooking and reading historical fiction in his free time. With an eye for detail and knack for storytelling, he continues making his mark at the forefront of journalism.
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