Israel said Wednesday it would not block aid to Gaza from Egypt, and there are already long lines of trucks parked at the Rafah border crossing, waiting to carry food, water and fuel to the enclave as soon as they get approval.
Israel has insisted that all trucks be checked to ensure they are carrying only aid and that the aid reach civilians, not Hamas fighters. Egypt has supported humanitarian aid to Gaza, but has not yet said if or when it will allow the border crossing to open. It has said in the past that the crossing was seriously damaged by Israeli airstrikes and it was waiting for Israel to guarantee safe passage for aid convoys before greenlighting the trucks.
Opening the Rafah crossing to aid and keeping it open will be fraught, diplomats and officials warned, because of the high level of mistrust between Israel, Gaza and Egypt and the ever-present potential for flare-ups.
But aid is there, and more is on the way. The European Union paid for a cargo planeload that arrived at the small airport of El Arish on the northeastern coast of Egypt, near the Rafah crossing, on Tuesday. Another plane with EU-funded aid will depart Copenhagen for the same airport on Thursday.
But Egyptian authorities have not permitted European and U.S. diplomats to access the area, not even to inspect the aid their governments have sent, officials said. The lack of access reflects Egypt’s desire for tight control of the region, which is in a province where Egypt has fought militants for years. Egypt fears the Gaza conflict could spill over the border, sparking unrest within its borders.
In the meantime, 106 trucks loaded with aid from local charities have been lined up outside the gate at Rafah, awaiting the opening of the crossing. An additional 58 trucks with aid were delivered to the Egyptian Red Crescent in the city of Arish early Wednesday.
Storage facilities of the Egyptian Red Crescent are overflowing with humanitarian aid supplies, and the El Arish football stadium, which is storing aid sent from foreign countries and international humanitarian organizations, has also reached maximum capacity, a senior member of the Egyptian Red Crescent said.
Shortly after President Biden announced, and Israel confirmed, that aid into Gaza would not be blocked from Egypt, the convoys still sat silent and there were no signs of increased activity.