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In the wake of the Hamas attacks, Israel closed its two border crossings with Gaza and imposed a “complete siege” on the territory, blocking supplies of fuel, electricity and water.
That has left the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt as the only viable outlet to get people out of the enclave and supplies into it.
But the crossing has been closed for much of the past week, with neither Gazans nor foreign nationals able to cross, and tons of vital humanitarian supplies for people in Gaza piling up on the Egyptian side of the border.
A Palestinian border official told CNN that Egypt had blocked the gates of the crossing with concrete slabs. Egypt has denied reports that it has closed its side of the crossing, and said the Palestinian side had been damaged by repeated Israeli airstrikes.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry told CNN on Saturday that the crossing was open but aerial bombardment had rendered the roads “inoperable” on the Gaza side.
The Biden administration has held talks with Israel and Egypt about ensuring safe passage for Americans and other civilians out of Gaza.
But Egypt, which already hosts millions of migrants, is uneasy about the prospect of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees crossing into its territory. More than two million Palestinians live in Gaza, a densely packed coastal enclave that is under intense Israeli bombardment.
Israel’s military has called for the 1.1 million residents of northern Gaza to evacuate their homes and move southwards, according to the United Nations, as Israel amassed 300,000 reservists on the border in apparent preparation for a ground incursion.
Hamas’ brutal October 7 attack on Israel killed 1,300 people, prompting retaliation by Israel against which has killed 2,329 people in Gaza. As attacks intensify and Israel continues to cut off essential supplies, rights groups have raised concerns about a potential humanitarian catastrophe.
People and supplies stuck at the border
Movement through the Rafah crossing is normally extremely limited; only Gazans with permits as well as foreign nationals are able to use it to travel between Gaza and Egypt. But the border has been effectively sealed shut in recent days.