Rafah Border Crossing Remains Closed as Israel Tightens Starvation Blockade

Israel said it opened the Kerem Shalom crossing on Wednesday but the UN and the US said no aid came through the crossing

May 8, 2024

The Rafah border crossing into Gaza remained closed on Wednesday following its capture by Israeli forces, cutting off vital aid deliveries after the UN’s World Food Program warned Palestinians in northern Gaza are already facing a “full-blown famine.”

Israeli sources told The Times of Israel that the Rafah crossing with Egypt will remain closed amid Israeli military operations on the Palestinian side, and it’s unclear how long that will be. The US claims it’s opposed to Israel restricting aid shipments into Gaza, but President Biden backed Israel’s operation to capture the crossing, which has tightened the starvation blockade.

Israel claimed on Wednesday that the nearby Kerem Shalom crossing that connects Gaza and Israel was re-opened. But both the US and the UN said no aid entered Gaza via Kerem Shalom since there is no one to distribute it and there are active military operations in the area. Gaza border officials said six of their employees came under fire when trying to approach the Kerem Shalom crossing.

Only the northern Erez border crossing remains open, and only a small number of trucks have entered. Israeli authorities said 60 aid trucks came through the Erez crossing on Tuesday, just a fraction of the 500 aid groups say is needed at a minimum, a level that has not been reached since October 7.

Rafah has been the only entry point for fuel, which is needed to deliver aid, power hospitals, and for other humanitarian purposes. The UN’s child relief agency, UNICEF, said the closure of the Rafah crossing threatens the entire humanitarian relief effort.

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“With that crossing now being closed, our whole humanitarian operation on the ground is compromised,” said UNICEF spokesman Ricardo Pires, according to The Washington Post. “If the crossing is not urgently re-opened, the entire civilian population in Rafah and in the Gaza Strip will be at greater risk of famine, disease and death.”

Israel took control of the Rafah crossing as the construction of the $320 million US-built pier off the coast of Gaza was completed, but it’s unclear when it will bring in aid shipments. The US built the pier instead of pressuring Israel to open more land crossings, which are by far the most efficient way to get aid into the Strip.

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