Convoys of humanitarian aid stacked up near Egypt’s border with the Gaza Strip on Sunday, unable to enter the Palestinian enclave being bombarded by Israel, witnesses told AFP.
The Rafah crossing — the only passage in and out of the Gaza Strip not controlled by Israel — has been closed since Tuesday, after three Israeli air strikes on the Palestinian border post within 24 hours.
On Saturday, an American official confirmed to AFP that Egypt and Israel had reached an agreement to allow American citizens to leave Gaza via Rafah.
However, Egypt has imposed conditions on the deal.
Officials refused for “the crossing to be designated for only foreigners to cross,” according to Egyptian news channel Al-Qahera News, which has ties to Egyptian intelligence agencies.
“The Egyptian stance is clear, which requires the aid to arrive in Gaza,” the report added, as alarm grows over shortages of essential supplies in the blockaded territory.
On Sunday, witnesses said concrete blocks installed by the Egyptians to fortify the border following Israel’s bombings were still in place, suggesting that no passage was being considered in the immediate future.
Already, shipments of aid from Jordan, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates had arrived at El Arish airport — 50 kilometres (31 miles) west of Rafah — alongside enough medical supplies supplied by the World Health Organization to meet the needs of 300,000 people.
Egypt itself has sent a convoy of 100 transport trucks carrying 1,000 tonnes of aid.
Israel, which controls the other two crossing points into Gaza, has declared a “complete siege” of the Palestinian coastal enclave, cutting off food, water, fuel and electricity supplies to the territory’s 2.4 million people.
Israeli Energy Minister Israel Katz said on Friday: “Humanitarian aid to Gaza? No electric switch will be turned on, no water tap will be opened and no fuel truck will enter until the Israeli abductees are returned home”.
Gaza has been under a joint Israeli-Egyptian blockade ever since Hamas seized control in 2007.
In 2008, thousands of Palestinians fleeing Israeli bombardment forced their way across the Egyptian frontier with bulldozers.
On Friday, Israel ordered civilian residents of the northern Gaza Strip, numbering around 1.1 million, to move southwards to clear the way for an expected ground invasion in retaliation for Hamas’s October 7 attack on southern Israel.