Israel to open Kerem Shalom border crossing to direct Gazan aid
Trucks carrying fuel enter Kerem Shalom Crossing on the Israeli Gaza border, southern Israel, on Aug. 8, 2022.
(Photo: Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

“We welcome this significant step,” said Jake Sullivan, the U.S. national security advisor. Avigdor Liberman called it “shameful” and a “moral, political and security bankruptcy.”

JNS Staff Report
December 15, 2023

Earlier this month, Israel reportedly agreed in the coming days to open the Kerem Shalom border crossing for inspection of trucks bearing humanitarian aid, but it said at the time that the vehicles would still need to enter Gaza through the Rafah border crossing with Egypt.

On Friday, Jake Sullivan, the U.S. national security advisor, announced that his Israeli counterpart, Tzachi Hanegbi, told him on his trip to Israel this week that the Jewish state will open Kerem Shalom “for direct delivery of humanitarian assistance to Palestinian civilians in Gaza.”

“We welcome this significant step,” Sullivan said.

He added that U.S. President Joe Biden raised the issue in recent phone calls with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, “and it was an important topic of discussion during my visit to Israel over the past two days.”

Sullivan said that Washington “remains committed to expanding and sustaining the flow of humanitarian assistance into Gaza” and “will continue to work closely with Egypt and other partners on the delivery and distribution of humanitarian assistance through Rafah crossing.

“We hope that this new opening will ease congestion and help facilitate the delivery of life-saving assistance to those who need it urgently in Gaza,” he said.

Sullivan’s statement did not say to what extent, if at all, Washington was concerned about the security of Israelis in the new arrangement. The Biden administration has admitted multiple times since Oct. 7 that Hamas appropriates humanitarian aid and uses it to attack Israel.

“As part of the hostage release agreement, Israel committed to transfer 200 truckloads per day of food and humanitarian aid from Egypt for the civilian population in Gaza,” the Israeli National Security Council announced on Friday. “The Rafah crossing has the capacity for only 100 trucks a day, with the Israeli security screening taking place at the Kerem Shalom crossing.”

“Until today, these trucks were required to return to the Rafah crossing, causing heavy congestion and preventing the implementation of the agreement between Israel and the United States,” it added. “In order to abide by the terms of the agreement, the cabinet approved today a temporary measure of unloading the trucks on the Gaza side of the Kerem Shalom crossing, instead of having them return to Rafah.”

The cabinet decided only to allow humanitarian aid, which arrives from Egypt, to transfer to Gaza in this manner, the council stated. “The United States has committed to pay for the upgrade of the Rafah crossing as soon as possible to enable the transfer of humanitarian aid only via Rafah after passing Israeli security screening,” it stated.

The Biden administration has also called on Israel repeatedly to decrease air strikes and to instead attack on the ground. Earlier in the week, a U.S. government spokesman said that Israel is “telegraphing” punches to Hamas in a way that he didn’t think the U.S. military would, in order to avoid civilian casualties.

An Associated Press article on Wednesday suggested that nine Israeli soldiers killed in an ambush this week represented “a sign of the stiff resistance Hamas still poses despite more than two months of devastating bombardment.”

“The tenacious fighting underscores how far Israel appears to be from its aim of destroying Hamas—even after the military unleashed one of the 21st century’s most destructive onslaughts,” per the AP.

“Yesterday, Israel lost 10 of its best soldiers and citizens fighting Hamas up close from building to building and inside tunnels. There is no question that fewer if not all of these lives would have been spared had Israel relied more on air strikes and less on hand-to-hand combat,” wrote David Friedman, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel, on Thursday.

“Israel went above and beyond to avoid civilian casualties, more so than any other military. But Biden/Blinken/Sullivan—who collectively have never been in a fight other than with the imaginary ‘corn pop’—continue to push Israel to put its soldiers at undue risk, to wrap up a war that is far from over, and to condition military aid (rifles) to score political points,” he added.

“They need to step back and let Israel win—it is in America’s interests as well as Israel’s,” Friedman said. “Hamas will never surrender if it sees America pressuring Israel.”

Israeli opposition leader Avigdor Liberman of the Yisrael Beiteinu Party criticized the decision to open the Kerem Shalom border crossing, which he called “shameful” and a “moral, political and security bankruptcy.”

“The same crossing where the human monsters from Hamas massacred Israeli civilians, and through which essential goods and products were transported to the Gaza Strip for years,” he wrote in Hebrew on social media. “Opening the crossing is just like transferring Qatari money in cash to Yahya Sinwar and the other human monsters of Hamas.”

“It is a continuation of the policy of surrendering to terrorism and the continuation of the Oslo Accords,” he added. “I call on the government ministers to vote against the shameful vote.”

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