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El-Sisi and Biden agree to send aid to Gaza via Karem Abu Salem crossing

Aid will be sent via crossing with Israel until legal mechanisms in place to reopen the crucial Rafah border crossing, Egypt says.

Trucks carrying aid to Gaza line up, waiting to move towards the Rafah border crossing, from El Arish, Egypt [File: EPA]

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has agreed in a phone call with his United States counterpart, Joe Biden, to allow United Nations aid through the Karem Abu Salem border crossing (known in Israel as Kerem Shalom) to the bombarded and besieged Gaza Strip, the White House says.

“President Biden welcomed the commitment from President el-Sisi to permit the flow of UN-provided humanitarian assistance” through the crossing, it said in a readout of the call, adding: “This will help save lives.”

The aid will be sent to Gaza via the crossing – located where the borders of Egypt, Israel and Gaza come together – until legal mechanisms are in place to reopen the crucial Rafah border crossing from the Palestinian side, the Egyptian presidency said.

The agreement resulted from “the difficult humanitarian situation of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, the lack of means of life in the Strip, and the lack of fuel needed for hospitals and bakeries,” the statement said

The move was also confirmed by the Palestinian Authority presidency, according to the Wafa news agency.

According to the White House statement, Biden expressed “his full commitment to support efforts to reopen the Rafah crossing with arrangements acceptable to both Egypt and Israel”. The statement said he agreed to send a senior team to Cairo next week for further talks.

Israeli forces seized the Palestinian side of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt on May 6, shortly after it launched a widely criticised ground and aerial offensive in the area where tens of thousands of displaced families had sought shelter.

The resulting closure has created a backlog of aid in Egypt, where some of the food aid has begun to rot.

Al Jazeera’s Kimberly Halkett, reporting from Washington, DC, said it is “not entirely a big surprise” that the opening of the crossing has been secured.

“What has been happening is, behind the scenes for a number of weeks now, we’ve been told there have been talks taking place between Israel, Egypt and US officials to get some sort of a deal to try and get some sort of opening to facilitate aid to come in,” Halkett said.

“The goal actually, from a United States standpoint, is to try and get a neutral third party … to try and take control of the Rafah crossing – and that seems to be where the stumbling block is,” Halkett added.

Aid agencies and rights groups, including several UN bodies, have warned that dwindling supplies in Gaza will result in a famine and will further worsen an already dire humanitarian crisis.

Before the closure of the Rafah crossing, supplies of humanitarian aid and much needed fuel were trickling into the territory. Shortages have caused multiple hospitals to cease operations and have affected much of Gaza’s north, where famine has taken hold in some ravaged areas.

Earlier on Friday, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) warned that access to the Gaza Strip is extremely limited with fewer than 1,000 truckloads of humanitarian assistance entering the enclave since May 7, the day Israel’s Rafah offensive began.

“There are a lot of doorways into Gaza. … Whether by land or by sea, we don’t control those doorways, but we want them all to be open,” UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said on Thursday.

The announcement on Friday came as the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordered Israel to stop its military offensive in Rafah and open the border crossing for aid.

“The humanitarian situation is now to be characterised as disastrous,” the ICJ, also known as the World Court, said on Friday. It also demanded access to Gaza for war crimes investigators.

More than a million Palestinians have fled Rafah in recent weeks as Israeli forces pressed deeper into Gaza’s southern-most city. People displaced by fighting lack shelter, food, water and other essentials for survival, the UN says.

Gaza’s Ministry of Health said 35,857 Palestinians have now been killed and 80,293 injured in the Israeli assault on the enclave since October 7. The war began after Hamas-led attacks on southern Israel killed 1,139 people.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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