Aid deliveries from Egypt to Gaza resume

Aid trucks from Egypt entered the Gaza Strip on Sunday under a new U.S.-brokered deal to reopen a vital channel for humanitarian aid, the Israeli army and the Egyptian Red Crescent said.

Egypt had blocked aid from entering the enclave through its territory following Israel's seizure of the Rafah crossing – which provides access to southern Gaza – in early May. The two sides have traded blame for the closure of that crossing, even as aid has piled up on the Egyptian side.

After pressure from the United States, Egypt announced Friday that it had agreed to divert trucks through the Israeli-controlled Kerem Shalom crossing, which is about two miles from the Rafah crossing, as a temporary measure.

Some 126 trucks from Egypt containing food, fuel and other essential goods entered the Gaza Strip through Kerem Shalom on Sunday, the Israeli army said in a statement. The trucks were inspected by Israeli officials, said Ahmad Ezzat, an Egyptian Red Crescent official.

The amount of food, water and medicine reaching Gazans has plummeted since the war began nearly eight months ago. As a result, the United Nations and humanitarian groups have warned of widespread hunger in the enclave and urged Israel to open more routes for aid to enter. But in recent weeks, aid shipments to Gaza through two major land conduits have been halted.

One of these crossings is Kerem Shalom, which is located at the crossroads between Gaza, Israel and Egypt. Israel temporarily closed Kerem Shalom a few weeks ago after a Hamas rocket attack killed four of its soldiers. Israel has since released some aid to Gaza through Kerem Shalom, but its distribution has been a point of contention. Israel says aid agencies must distribute aid. But the agencies say the Israeli army's activity in southern Gaza has made their work nearly impossible.

The other important aid crossing is between Gaza and Egypt, in Rafah. Israeli forces captured the crossing as part of their initial advance towards the city on the night of May 6. Since then, Israeli, Egyptian and Palestinian officials have been unable to reach an agreement to resume aid shipments there.

Israel has been under international pressure to find a way to reopen Rafah and prevent an even bigger humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza. On Friday, the World Court ordered Israel to “open the Rafah crossing for the unhindered delivery” of aid. Israel pledged to do so, but said it would also “prevent terrorist organizations from controlling the crossing.”

When the Rafah crossing was closed, the Egyptian government initially also resisted sending aid trucks to Kerem Shalom, in what American and Israeli officials said was an attempt to pressure Israel to withdraw from its operation in Rafah.

On Friday, Egypt and the United States announced that Cairo had agreed to temporarily allow the movement of food, basic supplies and fuel from its territory to Gaza through Kerem Shalom. Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, the Egyptian president, stressed that the measure is a palliative until “a new legal mechanism” is found on the Gaza side of the Rafah crossing.

It is unclear when the Rafah crossing will reopen for aid. US officials are expected to travel to Cairo this week to “support efforts to reopen the Rafah crossing,” according to the White House.

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