Egypt-Gaza border crossing opens, allowing humanitarian aid to flow amid airstrikes – NBC 6 South Florida

The border crossing between Egypt and Gaza opened on Saturday to provide urgently needed aid to Palestinians lacking food, medicine and water in the Israeli-besieged territory.

More than 200 trucks carrying around 3,000 tons of aid, which had been stationed near the border crossing for days, made their way to Gaza.

After Hamas militants went on a rampage in cities in southern Israel on October 7, Israel blockaded the area and launched waves of punitive airstrikes.

Many in Gaza, who have to eat only one meal a day and do not have enough water to drink, are desperately waiting for help. Hospital workers also needed urgent medical supplies and fuel for their generators as they treat large numbers of people injured in the bombings. Hundreds of foreign passport holders were also waiting to cross from Gaza to Egypt to escape the conflict.

The opening came hours after Hamas released an American woman and her teenage daughter, the first of around 200 prisoners released after the militant group invaded Israel on October 7. It was not immediately clear whether there was a connection between the two.

The release came amid growing expectations of a ground offensive that Israel says aims to eradicate the militant group that has ruled Gaza for 16 years. Israel said Friday that it does not plan to long-term control the tiny territory, home to about 2.3 million Palestinians.

The two people are a mother and daughter from Illinois.

The release came amid growing expectations of a ground offensive that Israel says aims to eradicate the militant group that has ruled Gaza for 16 years. Israel said Friday that it does not plan to long-term control the tiny territory, home to about 2.3 million Palestinians.

Hamas said it released Judith Raanan and her 17-year-old daughter Natalie on humanitarian grounds under an agreement with Qatar, a Gulf state that has often acted as a mediator in the Middle East.

The two traveled to Israel from their home in suburban Chicago to celebrate Jewish holidays, the family said. They were at the Nahal Oz kibbutz near Gaza on Oct. 7 when Hamas and other militants stormed into southern Israeli towns, killing hundreds and kidnapping 203 others.

The family has not heard from them since the attack and later learned from U.S. and Israeli officials that they were being held in Gaza, said Natalie’s brother Ben.

US President Joe Biden spoke to the two released hostages and their relatives. The International Committee of the Red Cross, which transported the freed Americans from Gaza to Israel, said their release was “a glimmer of hope.”

Relatives of other prisoners welcomed the release and called for more people to be released.

Hamas said in a statement that it was working with mediators to “complete the case of the hostages” if the security situation permitted. The group added that it was committed to mediation efforts by Egypt, Qatar and other countries.

Qatar said it would continue its dialogue with Israel and Hamas in the hope of achieving the release of all hostages “with the ultimate goal of de-escalating the current crisis and restoring peace.”

Associated Press reporters saw two large explosions in the northern Gaza Strip early Saturday and rockets triggered air raid sirens in a nearby Israeli town.

Lior Gelbaum, a 24-year-old dual American-Israeli citizen, told U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken what happened to her and others six days ago when Hamas attacked a music festival near Gaza, killing 260 people.

A possible Israeli ground attack is likely to lead to a dramatic escalation in casualties on both sides in urban fighting. More than 1,400 people in Israel have been killed in the war – most of them civilians killed during the Hamas invasion. Palestinian militants have continued to fire relentless rocket attacks on Israel since October 7 – more than 6,900 projectiles, according to Israel.

More than 4,100 people have been killed in Gaza, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry. This includes the controversial number of people who died in a hospital explosion earlier this week.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant spoke to MPs about Israel’s long-term plans for Gaza, laying out a three-stage plan that suggested Israel had no intention of reoccupying the territory it abandoned in 2005.

First, Israeli airstrikes and “maneuvers” – a presumed reference to a ground attack – would be aimed at eradicating Hamas. Next comes a lower intensity battle to defeat the remaining pockets of resistance. And finally, a new “security regime” will be created in Gaza and “Israel’s responsibility for life in the Gaza Strip will be abolished,” Gallant said.

Gallant did not say who Israel would likely rule Gaza if Hamas were toppled or what the new security regime would entail.

Israel occupied Gaza from 1967 to 2005, when it tore up settlements and withdrew soldiers. Two years later, Hamas took power. Some Israelis blame the withdrawal from Gaza for the five wars and countless smaller exchanges of fire since then.

The humanitarian crisis facing civilians in the Gaza Strip has worsened day by day since Israel stopped the delivery of aid. Two days after Israel announced an agreement allowing Egypt to send aid, the border remained closed on Friday as Egypt repaired the Rafah crossing damaged by Israeli attacks.

Over a million people have been displaced in Gaza. Many followed Israel’s orders to evacuate the isolated enclave on the Mediterranean coast from north to south. But Israel has continued to bomb areas in southern Gaza where Palestinians had been told to seek safety, and some appear to be returning to the north because of the bombings and difficult living conditions in the south.

Gaza’s overwhelmed hospitals rationed their dwindling resources.

Generators at Shifa Hospital, Gaza’s largest hospital, were operating at the lowest level to save fuel while providing power to vital departments such as the intensive care unit, said hospital director Mohammed Abu Selmia. Others worked in the dark. The lack of medical supplies and water makes it difficult to treat the large number of victims of Israeli attacks, he said.

The Palestinian Red Crescent said it had received a threat from the Israeli military to bomb Al-Quds Hospital. It said Israel had called for the immediate evacuation of the hospital in Gaza City, which was holding more than 400 patients and thousands of displaced civilians seeking refuge at the site.

Work continued on Friday to repair the road at the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, the only border crossing with the Gaza Strip not controlled by Israel. Trucks unloaded gravel and bulldozers and other equipment were used to fill large craters.

But there still seemed to be differences in how assistance was provided. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres worked with Egypt, Israel, the U.S. and others to resolve the “impasse” that prevented the trucks from entering, U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters on Friday.

Guterres wants to ensure that a “significant” number of trucks cross the border daily, that inspection of truck loads is “accelerated” and that UN authorities have fuel to distribute supplies within the Gaza Strip.

More than 200 trucks and about 3,000 tons of relief supplies were stationed near the crossing. Israel said the supplies could only go to civilians and that it would “thwart” any diversions by Hamas. It was unclear whether fuel for the hospital generators was allowed to enter.


Krauss reported from Jerusalem. Associated Press journalists Bassem Mroue in Beirut and Samy Magdy in Cairo contributed to this report.

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