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Israel and Egypt row over reopening Rafah border crossing

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Israel and Egypt are locked in a row over the Rafah border crossing, blaming each other for its continued closure as Gaza’s humanitarian crisis worsens.

Israeli forces have taken control of the Gaza side of the crossing.

On Tuesday Israel’s Foreign Minister Israel Katz said he had told the UK and Germany about “the need to persuade Egypt to reopen” the crossing.

But Egypt says it is Israel’s military operations in the area which are preventing aid from passing through.

Cairo said Israel was trying to shift the blame for blocked aid.

Mr Katz said the Palestinian armed group Hamas, which attacked southern Israel on 7 October last year, sparking the current war, could no longer “control the Rafah crossing”, citing security concerns over which Israel “will not compromise”.

“The world places the responsibility for the humanitarian situation on Israel, but the key to preventing a humanitarian crisis in Gaza is now in the hands of our Egyptian friends,” Mr Katz wrote on X.

Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry quickly responded to the comments with a statement that said Israel was responsible for the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and that the Israeli military’s actions in the Rafah area were blocking aid.

The country has been one of the mediators in stalled ceasefire talks, but its relationship with Israel has been strained since Israel seized the Gaza side of the Rafah crossing on 7 May.

Almost 450,000 Palestinians have fled from Rafah over the past week after the Israeli military moved into the area, the UN says. Israeli tanks are reportedly pushing deeper into Rafah city, which is to the north of the border crossing.

António Guterres, UN secretary-General, said in a statement that he was “appalled by the escalation of military activity in and around Rafah by the Israeli Defense Forces”.

Reiterating calls for a ceasefire and for the Rafah crossing to be opened, he continued: “These developments are further impeding humanitarian access and worsening an already dire situation.

“At the same time, Hamas goes on firing rockets indiscriminately. Civilians must be respected and protected at all times, in Rafah and elsewhere in Gaza. For people in Gaza, nowhere is safe now.”

The UN and international aid agencies said closures of the Rafah crossing and the Kerem Shalom crossing between Israel and southern Gaza had virtually cut the Gaza strip off from outside aid.

Last week, US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said it was Israel’s duty to keep the Rafah crossing open and running effectively.

In early May, Cindy McCain, head of the UN food agency, said she believed there was a “full-blown famine” in northern Gaza that was “moving its way south”.

In its most recent update, Cogat – the Israeli military agency tasked with coordinating aid access in Gaza – said 64 aid trucks entered Gaza on Sunday, significantly down on the daily number of trucks that entered in April.

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