Israel reopens Kerem Shalom crossing for Gaza aid

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(File photo) The Israeli military said aid lorries from Egypt were already arriving at the Kerem Shalom crossing
By David Gritten
BBC News

Israel says it is reopening the Kerem Shalom crossing with southern Gaza for aid deliveries, four days after it was closed because of Hamas rocket fire.

Lorries from Egypt with food, water and medicine have arrived at the crossing, according to the Israeli military.

The UN had expressed alarm on Tuesday over what it called Israel’s “choking off” of Gaza’s two main aid arteries.

It came after Israeli troops took full control of the Palestinian side of the Rafah crossing with Egypt.

Overnight, there were fresh Israeli air strikes in the nearby city of Rafah, where the Israeli military says it began a limited operation on Monday.

A senior US official also confirmed that a shipment of US weapons to Israel had been paused last week over concerns that Israeli forces were about to launch a major offensive on Rafah city.

The shipment included 2,000lb bombs, which could be devastating if used in such a densely populated place.

Seven months into its war with Hamas in Gaza, Israel has said that victory is impossible without taking Rafah.

But with more than a million displaced Palestinians taking refuge there from the fighting elsewhere, the UN and Western powers have warned that an all-out assault could have devastating humanitarian consequences.

Kerem Shalom is the key entry point for aid into Gaza, but Israel closed it on Sunday after four Israeli soldiers were killed by rockets launched by Hamas from the area of the Rafah crossing, according to the Israeli military.

Another six projectiles were fired at Kerem Shalom from the Rafah area on Tuesday, but no casualties were reported.

The second attack happened hours after Israeli tanks rolled into the Palestinian side of the Rafah crossing as part of what the military called a “precise” operation to “eliminate Hamas terrorists and dismantle Hamas terrorist infrastructure within specific areas of eastern Rafah”.

UN Secretary General António Guterres said he was “disturbed and distressed” by the Israeli military activity.

He also warned that the closure of both Rafah and Kerem Shalom crossings was “especially damaging to an already dire humanitarian situation” and demanded that they be reopened immediately.

On Wednesday morning, the Israeli military said it had informed international organisations about the reopening of Kerem Shalom for humanitarian aid.

“Trucks from Egypt carrying humanitarian aid, including food, water, shelter equipment, medicine and medical equipment donated by the international community are already arriving at the crossing,” a statement said.

“After a thorough security inspection by the security personnel… the equipment will be transferred to the Gazan side of the crossing.”

The military also said the recently reopened Erez crossing with northern Gaza was continuing to operate to facilitate the entry of aid.

Meanwhile, delegations from Israel and Hamas are due to resume negotiations through mediators on a new ceasefire and hostage release deal in Cairo.

On Monday, Israel declared that a three-phase proposal for a ceasefire and the release of hostages approved by Hamas was unacceptable.

The White House spokesman, John Kirby said a revised text Hamas had since put forward suggested remaining gaps could “absolutely be closed”.

Mr Guterres urged Israel and Hamas to “spare no effort” to agree a ceasefire, warning that the fate of the entire region was facing a “decisive moment”.

Israel launched a military campaign in Gaza to destroy Hamas in response to the group’s cross-border attack on southern Israel on 7 October, during which about 1,200 people were killed and 252 others were taken hostage.

More than 34,780 people have been killed in Gaza since then, according to the territory’s Hamas-run health ministry.

A deal agreed in November saw Hamas release 105 hostages in return for a week-long ceasefire and some 240 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. Israel says 128 hostages are unaccounted for, 36 of whom are presumed dead.

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