Truckers stuck at Rafah crossing fear food won’t reach hungry Gaza

By Thomson Reuters May 10, 2024 | 8:57 AM

RAFAH, Gaza Strip/ARISH, Egypt (Reuters) – Truck drivers stuck at Egypt’s border with Gaza say the food they are taking to the Palestinian enclave could spoil as they wait, exacerbating a hunger crisis among Gazans as war rages on.

Israeli forces seized control of the Rafah border crossing this week and are preparing for a widely expected assault on the city next to the frontier where about 1 million people uprooted by the war have been sheltering.

“The closure of the border crossing is not good for all these trucks because these are fridges, which means machine failure doesn’t give a warning. If the (fridge) stops working, then all of the food inside will be ruined,” said trucker Ahmed al-Bayoumi.

“Here, there’s no (technician) available to fix things and then we will have to handle the packages again. In any country in the world, food in fridges has priority to be delivered.”

Humanitarian workers sounded the alarm this week over the closure of both the Rafah crossing with Egypt and the Kerem Shalom crossing between Israel and Gaza for aid and people.

Dwindling food and fuel stocks could force aid operations to grind to a halt within days in Gaza as vital crossings remain shut, forcing hospitals to close down and leading to more malnutrition, United Nations aid agencies said on Friday.

The Israeli military says that what it calls a limited operation in Rafah is meant to kill fighters and dismantle infrastructure used by Hamas, the militant Islamist group that governs Gaza.

Those words offer little comfort to idle truck drivers.

“Every day, trucks would go in and out of the border crossing and things were flowing,” said truck driver Abdallah Nassar.

“But now that the border crossing is closed, we don’t know what our situation is now. And of course, we have food, and these things have expiry dates, and it can go bad.”

Most aid for Gaza has been delivered through the Rafah and Kerem Shalom crossings, where aid trucks last entered on May 5.

Before that, several dozen trucks had been crossing through Rafah most days, including the only supplies of fuel going into the enclave.

In April, 1,276 trucks entered through Rafah and 4,395 trucks entered through Kerem Shalom, according to UNRWA, the U.N. Palestinian refugee agency.


The truck drivers face uncertainties as Israel sets out to achieve its goal of destroying Hamas.

Ceasefire talks broke up on Thursday with no agreement to halt the fighting and release hostages captured in the Hamas-led Oct. 7 attacks on Israel that killed 1,200 people, according to Israeli tallies, and precipitated the conflict.

More than 34,000 Gazans have been killed in seven months of war, according to health authorities in the Hamas-controlled enclave who say thousands more dead are probably buried under rubble. Much of the Gaza Strip has been reduced to rubble.

Residents described almost constant explosions and gunfire east and northeast of the city on Friday, with intense fighting between Israeli forces and militants from Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

“The aid going into (Gaza) through Rafah and Kerem Shalom border crossings is like a lifeline for the people there,” said Mohamed Rageh Mohamed, head of the north Sinai office of Misr El Kheir Foundation charity.

“There’s no way of living or for these people to survive except if the aid enters Gaza on daily basis.”

(Writing by Michael Georgy, Editing by Timothy Heritage)