Aid gains to Gaza could be lost as fighting rages in Rafah, the United States says

Sameh Shoukry, Egypt's foreign minister, immediately objected, saying the crossing was still closed because of Israel's control over it and because its military operations were endangering truck drivers and aid workers. In a statement from Egypt's Foreign Ministry, Shoukry rejected what he described as “the policy of distorting facts.”

Israeli officials rarely publicly criticize Egypt, with which Israel maintains a decades-old peace treaty and sensitive security cooperation.

Defying international pressure, Israel launched a limited invasion of Rafah on May 6, seizing areas to the east. Even if the trucks were allowed to pass through the Rafah crossing, it is unclear whether they could safely cross into eastern Rafah, where Israeli forces are fighting Hamas militants.

Israel recently opened two new routes for aid trucks to enter directly into northern Gaza.

“We are also seeing real progress in the North, where more progress is happening,” Blinken said. “But what we don't want to see is a situation where we essentially reverse what has happened in the last few months.”

According to Wael Abu Omar, spokesman for the Palestinian side of the crossing, Palestinian workers evacuated the Kerem Shalom crossing before the arrival of Israeli forces. Israel has asked the Palestinian Authority to send its employees to help run the crossing, but not in their official capacity, said two Palestinian officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss messages exchanged between Israeli and Palestinian authorities .

The authority's leadership quickly rejected the proposal, officials said.

Mahmoud al-Habbash, religious affairs adviser to Mahmoud Abbas, the authority's president, said Israel must withdraw from the crossing before Palestinian Authority employees take responsibility for running it.

“How can we work with the Israeli tanks there?” he asked in an interview. “In terms of principle, this is unacceptable, not to mention it would be dangerous for the Palestinians.”

The Ramallah-based Palestinian leadership, al-Habbash said, would also need to be reassured that the return of authority at the Rafah crossing was part of a broader effort to reinstate the governing body in Gaza.

“We do not reject the steps taken one after another, but we must know that the Rafah crossing is part of Gaza, and a solution for the Rafah crossing is part of the solution for Gaza, and the solution for Gaza is part of the solution for all parts of the Palestinian state,” he said.

In public statements, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has all but ruled out returning authority to Gaza, a prospect supported by the United States.

Aaron Boxerman contributed to the reporting.

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