JERUSALEM: The Kerem Shalom crossing between Israel and Gaza opened on Sunday (Dec 17) for aid trucks for the first time since the start of the war, officials said, a move intended to double the amount of food and medicine reaching the enclave.
The crossing had been closed after an Oct 7 attack by Hamas and aid was being delivered solely through Gaza’s Rafah crossing with Egypt, which Israel said could only handle the entry of 100 trucks per day.
Two sources in the Egypt Red Crescent told Reuters that trucks were starting to arrive on Sunday through the Kerem Shalom crossing on their way into Gaza. One said there were 79 cars.
Kerem Shalom, on the border of Egypt, Israel and Gaza, is one of the main transit points for goods in and out of Gaza, allowing much faster passage than the Rafah passenger crossing a few kilometres away.
Israel approved the entry of help last week.
“Starting today (Dec 17), UN aid trucks will undergo security checks and be transferred directly to Gaza via Kerem Shalom, to abide by our agreement with the US,” COGAT, the part of military which organised humanitarian aid with the Palestinian territories, said in a statement.
The prime minister’s office has previously said this would allow Israel to keep its commitments to permit the entry of 200 trucks of aid per day, agreed upon in a hostage deal brokered and implemented last month.
Asked if help had crossed into Gaza, an Israeli official said yes.
Israel had already agreed to allow trucks to be inspected at Kerem Shalom but the trucks had previously been forced to return to Rafah, to cross into Gaza from Egypt and aid groups had been calling for them to be allowed in directly.
The aid may not reach Gazans, Colonel Elad Goren, head of the civil department at COGAT told Reuters, saying humanitarian agencies in Gaza had not increased their ability to distribute aid to meet the demand from the influx of Gazans who have fled to the south of the enclave on Israeli advice.
“If the UN won’t have the capacity to collect and to distribute, it doesn’t matter how many crossings we will open,” Goren said. “They cannot count upon the same mechanism they had before the war.
“We adjusted ourselves,” Goren said. “The UN unfortunately didn’t.”