Why Is the Rafah Border Crossing Closed?

Why Is the Rafah Border Crossing Closed?

Israel and Egypt are trading blame over the continued closure of the Rafah border crossing, a vital entry point into Gaza for humanitarian aid, nearly 10 days after the Israeli army took over the Palestinian side of the crossing.

Humanitarian officials have warned that the closure of the entry point has exacerbated an already devastating aid situation, with prices for many food items surging and fuel becoming scarce. Hundreds of trucks in Egypt have been blocked from reaching Gaza. Wounded and ill people who need medical care outside the territory, as well as families trying to escape the war between Israel and Hamas, have been unable to leave.

Israel has accused Egypt of holding up the delivery of aid through the Rafah crossing, while Egypt has said Israel’s continued presence in and around the crossing has been the primary obstacle. There has been intense bombardment and fighting around Rafah since last week, when Israel seized control of the Gaza side of the border.

Israel Katz, Israel’s foreign minister, said on Tuesday that he had spoken to European foreign ministers about the “need to persuade Egypt” to allow the “continued delivery of international humanitarian aid to Gaza.”

“The key to preventing a humanitarian crisis in Gaza is now in the hands of our Egyptian friends,” he wrote on X, saying that Israel would not return the crossing to what he described as Hamas’s control.

Sameh Shoukry, Egypt’s foreign minister, quickly pushed back, arguing that the crossing was still closed because Israel’s control over it, and its military operations in the surrounding area, were putting truck drivers and aid workers in danger.

In a statement from the Egyptian foreign ministry, Mr. Shoukry rejected what he described as “the policy of twisting facts.”

Defying international pressure, Israel launched a limited invasion of Rafah on May 6, taking over eastern parts of the area. Even if trucks were allowed to pass through the Rafah crossing, it was not clear if they could safely navigate through eastern Rafah, where Israeli forces have been fighting Hamas militants.

Palestinians workers evacuated the crossing before the arrival of Israeli forces, according to Wael Abu Omar, a spokesman for the Palestinian side of the crossing.

Israel has asked the Palestinian Authority to send its employees to help run the crossing, but not in their official capacity, said two Palestinian officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss messages exchanged between Israeli and Palestinian authorities.

The authority’s leadership swiftly rejected the proposal, the officials said.

Aaron Boxerman contributed reporting.



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