Talks Held on Reopening Rafah Crossing to Aid (2024)


Talks Held on Reopening Rafah Crossing to Aid (1)

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The U.N. warns that rising temperatures threaten to worsen the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

Aid groups remain unable to deliver “basic necessities” like tents and clean drinking water to millions of Palestinians in Gaza as temperatures rise and diseases spread, a United Nations humanitarian official said on Sunday, as talks continued about reopening a critical border crossing that has been closed for weeks.

Scott Anderson, a senior official at UNRWA, the main U.N. agency aiding Palestinians in Gaza, told CBS News on Sunday that the trickle of supplies has not been enough to meet people’s basic needs. He added that aid organizations in Gaza have been “perpetually playing catch-up” since the war began in October and that an insufficient number of tents has meant displaced people are “sleeping outside, still, eight months after the start of the conflict.”

The lack of clean drinking water has become a top concern as it gets hotter and Palestinians face dehydration as well as the spread of infectious disease, Mr. Anderson said. The World Health Organization has warned that cases of hepatitis A and diarrhea are rising, and other diseases like cholera could quickly become more prevalent without improved access to clean water, he added.


The challenge facing relief groups has been exacerbated by the closure of the border crossing with Egypt at Rafah, the southern Gaza city where Israel has been carrying out an offensive in recent weeks. The Rafah crossing has been an important conduit for getting desperately needed humanitarian assistance into the enclave, and for allowing sick and wounded Palestinians to leave.

Israel seized the crossing in early May at the beginning of its offensive in Rafah, where more than a million displaced Gazans crammed after Israeli evacuation orders repeatedly directed residents to clear out of other areas and head south. Egypt has shuttered its side of the Rafah crossing since Israel took control of the other side of the crossing, and Egyptian, Israeli and Palestinian officials have wrangled over how to reopen the crossing to aid.

On Sunday, Israeli, Egyptian and U.S. officials met in Cairo to discuss reopening the crossing, according to Egyptian state news media. Details on the discussion or any outcome were not immediately available. Ahead of the talks, an Israeli official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive subject had confirmed that the crossing would be the focus.

A U.S. Army veteran, Mr. Anderson added that conditions in Gaza were “much worse” than anything he had seen during tours in Afghanistan. “Everywhere you go, the scale of destruction just really defies description and it looks like something out of a postapocalyptic movie,” he said.

Israel has followed through with its offensive in Rafah despite concerns from close allies like the United States that any major military assault would place civilians in grave danger. More than one million Palestinians in Rafah, about half of Gaza’s total population, have fled the city over the past few weeks, according to the United Nations.

On May 24 the International Court of Justice appeared to order Israel to “immediately” halt its offensive, although some of the court’s judges said Israel could still conduct some military operations there. It also specified a need for “unhindered provision” of humanitarian assistance and services through land crossings, particularly the one in Rafah.

The international pressure grew after an Israeli strike in Rafah two days later killed dozens of Palestinians in a camp for displaced people, according to Gaza health officials. The Israeli military said the bombardment had targeted two Hamas commanders but unintentionally set off a blaze nearby where civilians were sheltering; Mr. Netanyahu called the civilian deaths a “tragic accident.”

But the Israeli military said on Wednesday that it had established “operational control” over the border zone with Egypt, an eight-mile-long strip. And on Friday, it said that its forces had advanced into central Rafah.

Israel and Egypt — former enemies that have fought several major wars — have clashed over the Israeli military campaign in Gaza, and particularly over Israel’s ground offensive in Rafah. The two countries now have close security ties, with senior officials regularly meeting in Tel Aviv and Cairo.

The Egyptian government has also faced pressure at home to take a tougher stance against Israel in the wake of the war in Gaza. But there was little response from Cairo to Israel’s announcement that it had seized the border area, despite previous threats to take diplomatic action.

Anushka Patil contributed reporting.

Aaron Boxerman

Key Developments

Israel’s defense minister discusses a ‘governing alternative’ to Hamas, and other news.

  • Israel’s defense minister outlined a framework for a “governing alternative” to Hamas in the Gaza Strip after a briefing at the military’s southern command on Sunday. The minister, Yoav Gallant, said in a statement that the country’s defense establishment was considering how to create an a new postwar administration in the Palestinian enclave. “We will isolate areas, remove Hamas operatives from these areas and introduce forces that will enable an alternative government to form — an alternative that threatens Hamas,” he said, without offering further details. He added that “creating the potential for a governing alternative” would help enable Israel to achieve its goals.

  • John Kirby, a spokesman for the National Security Council, told ABC News on Sunday that the Biden administration had “every expectation” Israel would move forward with a proposed cease-fire plan laid out by President Biden if Hamas “agrees to the proposal.” Two far-right coalition partners of Israel’s leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, threatened on Saturday night to quit his government should he do so. If both of those far-right parties left the coalition, it could mark the end of Mr. Netanyahu’s government.

  • The Maldives, an island nation in the Indian Ocean, will ban holders of Israeli passports, the office of its president, Mohamed Muizzu, said on Sunday. The office said that the cabinet decided to amend laws to prohibit people with Israeli passports from entering the country, where Islam is the official religion, and that the cabinet established a subcommittee to oversee the process.

  • Israel’s Supreme Court was hearing petitions on Sunday to end the decades-long practice of exempting ultra-Orthodox Jewish men of draft age from military service. The mass exemptions granted to yeshiva students has become one of the most polarizing social and political issues in a country where most 18-year-olds are drafted for years of obligatory service, and at a time when the military says it needs more soldiers to fight in Gaza. The court hearing comes after temporary legislation regulating the draft expired.

  • Mr. Netanyahu indicated that he planned to accept an invitation to address a joint meeting of Congress in Washington, saying he wanted to “present the truth about our just war against those who seek to destroy us.” The four top congressional leaders formally invited Mr. Netanyahu on Friday in a show of bipartisan unity that masked a fraught behind-the-scenes debate over receiving him. No date has been set.



In Gaza, a university lecturer asks of the latest cease-fire proposal: Who will govern us after the war?


Palestinians in Gaza welcomed President Biden’s endorsem*nt of a proposal aimed at ending the war in Gaza, but some were skeptical that it would be implemented anytime soon, and at least one man — a lecturer at the Palestine University in Gaza — expressed a concern on many people’s minds: Who would govern Gaza going forward?

Hamas, which led an attack on Israel on Oct. 7 and had governed Gaza before the war, reacted positively to Mr. Biden’s speech in a statement on social media. It said that it was willing to deal “constructively” with any cease-fire proposal based on a permanent truce, the complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza, the return of displaced Palestinians to their homes and a “serious prisoner exchange.”

The proposal described by President Biden would be broken into three phases. The first phase would include a six-week cease-fire, the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the populated areas of Gaza, and the release of elderly and female hostages held by Hamas. In exchange, hundreds of Palestinian detainees would be released.

During the first phase, Israel and Hamas would continue to negotiate to reach a permanent cease-fire and kick off a second phase aimed at ending the war. If the talks take more than six weeks, the first phase of the truce would continue until they reach a deal, Mr. Biden said. The third phase would begin to tackle the enormous job of rebuilding Gaza.

Rami Shrafee, the university lecturer at the Palestine University, said it wasn’t clear who would represent Gazans in the second and third phase of the agreement. In the past, the United States has said that the Palestinian Authority, which runs the West Bank, ought to be brought in to run Gaza, but it wasn’t clear if that was still the U.S. position.

“Who is going to sign off on this deal, Hamas or the Palestinian Authority or the Palestinian people?” Mr. Shrafee asked.

He added that Israel has been clear that it doesn’t want either Hamas or the Palestinian Authority to govern Gaza after the conflict ends.

Mr. Shrafee sees the proposal as part of continued efforts to keep the Palestinian territories separate and undermine any prospect for a future Palestinian state.

“If there is no Palestinian unity and a Palestinian national plan, then the destructive efforts to the Palestinian existence will continue,” he said. “And Gaza will remain separate from the West Bank, and there will continue to be a division between the Palestinian Authority and whoever administers Gaza.”

Al-Qasem Saed, a lawyer and researcher with the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, said Mr. Biden’s position was a victory because it reflected the “resistance of the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip” and the capitulation of “the leader of a country the size of the United States, that is considered the police officer of the world.”

Others, like Rania Al Khodary, who helped promote local business on social media, were just glad to see the United States talking about ending Israel’s war in Gaza. On social media, she captured the exhaustion and frustration many felt, saying, “Assuming Hamas agrees with Biden’s proposal and Israel accepts, the war will have ended with penalty kicks … or an offside goal … just let it end.”

Raja Abdulrahim and Ameera Harouda

Talks Held on Reopening Rafah Crossing to Aid (2024)
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