Israel had imposed a siege on the enclave following Hamas’s Oct. 7 cross-border massacre of 1,400 people.
At least 20 trucks carrying goods crossed into the Gaza Strip via Egypt on Saturday for the first time since Hamas’s invasion of southern Israel that killed 1,400 people and resulted in over 200 others taken captive.
“The opening of this essential supply route was the result of days of exhaustive U.S. diplomatic engagement in the region and an understanding President [Joe] Biden reached with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi,” said U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a statement Saturday.
“We urge all parties to keep the Rafah crossing open to enable the continued movement of aid that is imperative to the welfare of the people of Gaza. We have been clear: Hamas must not interfere with the provision of this life-saving assistance. Palestinian civilians are not responsible for Hamas’s horrific terrorism, and they should not be made to suffer for its depraved acts,” added the statement.
More than 200 trucks carrying some 3,000 tons of products have amassed at the crossing after being held up for days.
“I am confident that this delivery will be the start of a sustainable effort to provide essential supplies,” said U.N. humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths. “This first convoy must not be the last.”
The trucks are not searched for weapons and other contraband.
Foreign nationals also headed towards the Rafah crossing on Saturday in anticipation of leaving the Palestinian enclave.
“If the border is opened, we do not know how long it will remain open for foreign citizens to depart Gaza,” the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem said in an advisory notice.
The embassy warned of a “potentially chaotic and disorderly environment on both sides of the crossing,” adding that American citizens should assess the situation before attempting to reach the Sinai Peninsula.
IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said on Saturday that food, water and medical supplies would be permitted into Gaza, but that “fuel will not enter.”
He added that the military would “continue strikes on Hamas strongholds in northern Gaza.”
According to the IDF, some 700,000 Palestinians out of an estimated 1.1 million residents of northern Gaza have heeded calls to evacuate south.
“As of now, I can tell you that there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza. There are hardships in moving people within days to the south of the Gaza Strip, but the population is getting along,” an unnamed Israeli official told local media on Saturday.
Also on Saturday, Egypt hosted a global summit to discuss the war between Israel and Palestinian terror groups in Gaza.
The meeting held in Egypt’s New Administrative Capital, located east of Cairo, was attended by the leaders of Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and the Palestinian Authority.
The prime ministers of Italy, Spain, Greece and Canada, as well as the top diplomats from Germany, France, the United Kingdom and Japan were slated to attend.
The Israel Air Force is striking Hamas terror assets in the Gaza Strip “at a rate not seen in decades,” IDF spokesman Hagari said on Friday.
He added that the strikes were preparing the way for an expected ground assault to destroy Hamas’s capabilities.
The military conducted strikes against numerous terrorist assets in Gaza overnight Friday, including command centers and other Hamas infrastructure.
The IDF also struck several anti-tank missile launch sites and sniper positions.
On Friday night, Hamas released two hostages, a mother and daughter, who are dual Israeli and American citizens, for what the Palestinian terrorist organization referred to as “humanitarian reasons.”
Prime Minister Netanyahu’s office released a statement noting that “Judith Tai Raanan and her daughter Natalie Shoshana Raanan were released by the terrorist organization Hamas.” The two were kidnapped on Oct. 7 when they were staying as guests in Kibbutz Nahal Oz.
Hebrew-language media, citing Israeli officials, reported that Hamas released the pair without any quid pro quo from Jerusalem.
“The continued holding of hostages is a war crime,” said an Israel-based group advocating on behalf of the families of captives. “We call on world leaders and the international community to exert their full power in order to act for the release of all the hostages and missing.”
The IDF said on Saturday it has informed 210 families that their loved ones had been kidnapped and taken to Gaza. Among the captives are some 20 to 30 children and 10 to 20 people over the age of 60. The hostages include citizens of eight or nine countries in addition to Israel.
Families of the captives have expressed anger at Netanyahu’s approval of aid deliveries of water, food and medicine to Gaza through Egypt.
Image: U.N. vehicles and empty trucks wait for the arrival of aid on the Palestinian side of the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, Oct. 21, 2023. Photo by Atia Mohammed/Flash90.