Lifesaving humanitarian aid is piling up at Gaza’s closed border, despite diplomatic efforts to open a corridor with Egypt, as the World Health Organization warned that water is running out for hundreds thousands of Palestinians displaced in the bombed territory.
Gaza has been under siege by Israel for more than a week, in response to a deadly incursion by Hamas, the Islamist militant group that controls the coastal enclave, home to 2.2 million people.
Some are gathering at the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza, hoping to leave, as essential supplies like fuel, food and water run out, leaving hospitals on the brink. collapse and families facing dehydration and starvation.
Amid growing international pressure to address the humanitarian crisis, US President Joe Biden will arrive in Israel on Wednesday, an extraordinary wartime visit that follows frantic efforts by Secretary of State Antony Blinken across the Middle East – including a seven-hour negotiating session with top leaders. Israeli officials.
On Tuesday, Blinken announced that the United States and Israel “agreed to develop a plan that will allow humanitarian assistance from donor countries and multilateral organizations to reach civilians in Gaza.”
However, it is unclear whether any progress has been made regarding the opening of the Rafah crossing, the only entry point into Gaza not controlled by Israel.
A Palestinian border official told CNN on Saturday that concrete slabs had been placed at the crossing, blocking all the gates; Egypt, for its part, says Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza side of the border have rendered roads unusable.
Satellite images provided by Maxar Technologies show four 30-foot-high craters still blocking the road at the border crossing closest to the Egyptian gate; the cement slabs blocking the entrance are also visible in the photos.
Despite all this, the pile-up – and urgent calls for help – are increasing on both sides of the border.
On the Egyptian side, United Nations teams are waiting at the crossing, hoping they will get the green light to enter Gaza and open a humanitarian corridor.
In a social media post on Monday, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that Gaza faces an “imminent” public health crisis, with a lack of water and the lives of more than 3,500 patients in 35 hospitals being in immediate danger.
WHO spokesperson Margaret Harris told CNN that the UN health agency had reached an agreement with the Egyptian president to open the Rafah crossing for aid – but the Israeli strikes made the dangerous facility, thereby stopping the movement of essential supplies.
“It’s a terrifying and really painful waiting game, where we all just want to help,” Harris said, adding that there are an estimated 84,000 pregnant women in Gaza, many of whom give birth every day.
“Babies don’t care about bombs, they come when they come,” she said.
UN humanitarian envoy Martin Griffiths is expected to visit Cairo on Tuesday to contribute to diplomatic efforts, according to a statement from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. His trip will include a visit to Israel.
A convoy of trucks carrying humanitarian supplies was crossing Egypt towards the crossing point early Tuesday, according to state-affiliated media outlet Al-Qahera News. Much of the aid has already arrived a few days ago, sent by several countries and international organizations.
And on the Gaza side, large numbers of evacuees gathered near the crossing, part of a mass migration that has seen at least a million people flee their homes in the past week alone, according to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.
In pictures: Deadly clashes in Israel and Gaza
A family of five Palestinian-Americans, all U.S. citizens, traveled to Rafah on Monday after learning the borders would be open, said Haifa Kaoud, whose husband Hesham is among the five people stranded in Gaza.
“They went to Rafah on Monday and waited for hours, but it never opened,” she said, adding: “They don’t have much electricity or internet access, so they depend on us for information. »
The family was visiting relatives in Gaza when the war broke out; Now their loved ones in the United States are desperately trying to find a way to bring them home.
“The water is not clean and even though they still have food, they are careful not to eat too much so that there is enough for everyone,” Haifa said. “One of the brothers is also on heart medication and they are also concerned about how long this treatment will last.”
On Monday, the UN Security Council rejected a Russian resolution calling for a humanitarian ceasefire because it failed to obtain the minimum number of votes needed. Several countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom and France, voted against because the draft did not condemn Hamas for the October 7 attack, which the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said left at least 1,400 dead and many hostage-taking.
The week of Israeli bombardment has killed more than 2,800 people, including hundreds of children, and injured more than 11,000 people in Gaza, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said Monday, according to the official Palestinian news agency WAFA.
On Tuesday, the Palestinian Interior Ministry said Israeli airstrikes killed at least 49 people in strikes on the southern Gaza towns of Rafah and Khan Younis.
IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus told CNN that he “was not aware of any strikes specifically in these areas, but they could have taken place.”
“Combat operations continue,” he said. “We continue to hunt down Hamas members in an attempt to degrade their military capabilities. »
Israel’s U.N. Ambassador, Gilad Erdan, also pushed back against accusations of ethnic cleansing made by a U.N. official who focuses on Palestinian rights. Erdan called the claims “completely false,” accusing UN special rapporteur Francesca Albanese of anti-Semitism.
In a statement Saturday, Albanese accused Israel of carrying out “massive ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in the fog of war,” pointing the finger at hundreds of thousands of Palestinians previously expelled or forced to flee their homes during the 1948 conflicts and 1967.