Daily Press (Sunday)

Supplies trickle into besieged Gaza

Israeli military says it will step up strikes ahead of ‘next stages’

- By Najib Jobain, Samy Magdy and Joseph Krauss

RAFAH, Gaza Strip — The border crossing between Egypt and Gaza opened Saturday to let a trickle of desperatel­y needed aid into the besieged Palestinia­n territory for the first time since Israel sealed it off and began pounding it with airstrikes following Hamas’ bloody rampage two weeks ago.

Twenty trucks were allowed in, an amount aid workers said was insufficie­nt to address the humanitari­an crisis. More than 200 trucks carrying 3,000 tons of aid have been waiting nearby for days.

Gaza’s 2.3 million Palestinia­ns, half of whom have fled their homes, are rationing food and drinking dirty water. Hospitals say they are running low on supplies and fuel for emergency generators amid a territoryw­ide power blackout.

There are growing expectatio­ns of a ground offensive that Israel says would be aimed at rooting out Hamas. Israel said Friday that it doesn’t plan to take long-term control over the small but densely populated Palestinia­n territory.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened his Cabinet late Saturday to discuss the expected invasion, Israeli media reported.

Israel’s military spokesman, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, said the country planned to step up its airstrikes. “We will deepen our attacks to minimize the dangers to our forces in the next stages of the war. We are going to increase the attacks, from today,” he said.

Israel has vowed to crush Hamas but has given few details about what it envisions

for Gaza if it succeeds.

Yifat Shasha-Biton, a Cabinet minister, said there was broad consensus in the government that there will have to be a “buffer zone” in Gaza to keep Palestinia­ns away from the border.

The opening of Rafah came after more than a week of diplomacy, including visits to the region by President Joe Biden and U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. Israel had insisted nothing would enter Gaza until Hamas released all the captives from its Oct. 7 attack in southern Israel.

Late Friday, Hamas freed its first captives — an Illinois woman and her teenage daughter. Israel says Hamas is still holding at least 210 hostages.

Hamas said it was working with Egypt, Qatar and other mediators “to close the case” of hostages if security

circumstan­ces permit.

On Saturday, an Associated Press reporter saw 20 trucks heading north from Rafah to Deir al-Balah, a farming town where many evacuees from the north have sought shelter.

Hundreds of foreign passport holders at Rafah hoping to escape the conflict were not allowed to leave.

Dina al-Khatib, a U.S. citizen, said she and her family were desperate to get out. “It’s not like previous wars,” she said. “There is no electricit­y, no water, no internet, nothing.”

The trucks were carrying 44,000 bottles of drinking water — enough for 22,000 people for a single day.

“This first, limited water will save lives, but the needs are immediate and immense,” UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell said.

The World Health Organizati­on said four of the trucks were carrying medical supplies, including trauma medicine and portable trauma bags for first responders.

“The situation is catastroph­ic in Gaza,” said Cindy McCain, head of the U.N.’s World Food Program.

Biden said the United States “remains committed to ensuring that civilians in Gaza will continue to have access to food, water, medical care, and other assistance, without diversion by Hamas.”

The U.S. government would work to keep Rafah open and let U.S. citizens leave Gaza, he said.

Guterres gave voice to internatio­nal concern over civilians in Gaza, telling a summit in Cairo that Hamas’ “reprehensi­ble assault” on Israel “can never justify the collective punishment of the Palestinia­n people.”

Israel has also traded fire along its northern border with Lebanon’s Hezbollah militants, raising concerns about a second front opening up. Hezbollah said six of its fighters were killed.

Israel ordered its citizens to leave Egypt and Jordan — which made peace with it decades ago — and to avoid travel to a number of Arab and Muslim countries, including the United Arab Emirates, Morocco and Bahrain, which forged diplomatic ties with Israel in 2020.

Meanwhile, protests against Israel’s actions in Gaza have erupted across the region and in other parts of the world.

Tens of thousands of proPalesti­nian demonstrat­ors Saturday marched through a rainy London to demand

Israel stop its bombardmen­t of Gaza. Protests also occurred in France, Italy and Germany.

More than 1,400 people in Israel have been killed in the war — mostly civilians slain during the Hamas attack. More than 4,300 people have been killed in Gaza, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry. That includes the disputed toll from a hospital explosion.

At the summit Saturday, Egypt President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi called for ensuring aid to Gaza, negotiatin­g a cease-fire and resuming Israeli-Palestinia­n peace talks, which broke down more than a decade ago.

He also said the conflict would never be resolved “at the expense of Egypt,” referring to fears Israel may try to push Gaza’s population into the Sinai Peninsula.

 ?? MAHMOUD KHALED/GETTY ?? Convoy volunteers celebrate Saturday after trucking aid into Gaza and returning to Egypt.
MAHMOUD KHALED/GETTY Convoy volunteers celebrate Saturday after trucking aid into Gaza and returning to Egypt.

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