Blinken urges Egypt to ensure aid is flowing into Gaza

By Thomson Reuters May 22, 2024 | 11:39 AM

By Simon Lewis, Humeyra Pamuk and Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday urged Egypt to do everything it can to make sure humanitarian aid is flowing into Gaza as food and medicine bound for the strip piles up on the Egyptian side.

Blinken told a hearing in the House of Representatives that the Rafah crossing in southern Gaza remained closed after Israel’s military seized it on May 7.

Fighting near the crossing has made providing assistance challenging, but aid could still be getting through, Blinken said, an apparent reference to the Kerem Shalom crossing near Rafah that has been open.

“So we need to find a way to make sure that the assistance that would go through Rafah can get through safely, but we do strongly urge our Egyptian partners to do everything that they can on their end of things to make sure that assistance is flowing,” Blinken said.

Israel is retaliating against Hamas in Gaza – an enclave of 2.3 million people – over a brutal Oct. 7 attack by the Palestinian militants. Aid access into southern Gaza has been disrupted since Israel stepped up military operations in Rafah, a move that the U.N. says has forced 900,000 people to flee and has raised tensions with Egypt.

Egyptian security sources say Egypt opposes Israel’s presence at the Rafah crossing and wants it to withdraw.

Egypt’s foreign minister said on Monday that the Israeli military presence and operations put truck drivers in danger, which has led to the cessation of aid crossing the border.

Israel’s strategic affairs minister, Ron Dermer, told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” the hold-up was Egypt’s fault.

“Right now, Egypt is withholding 2,000 trucks of humanitarian assistance from going into Gaza because they have a political issue about the Rafah crossing,” Dermer said.

(Reporting by Simon Lewis, Humeyra Pamuk and Patricia Zengerle in Washington; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Matthew Lewis)