Actions by Israel and Egypt Squeeze Gaza Aid Routes

For a few weeks, after extraordinary international pressure and warnings of an imminent famine in the Gaza Strip, Israel announced new steps to increase humanitarian aid and more supplies entered the territory.

But the flow of aid, the vast majority of which goes through two border crossings in southern Gaza, has come to a near-total stop this week, first closed off by Israel and then further restricted, officials say, by Egypt.

Israel shut down the Kerem Shalom crossing after a Hamas rocket attack nearby killed four Israeli soldiers last Sunday. The next day, Israeli forces seized and closed the Gaza side of the other crossing, at Rafah on the Egyptian border, as part of what they have described as a limited military operation against Hamas, and raised the Israeli flag over the crossing.

Although Israel has reopened Kerem Shalom and some fuel has gone into Gaza from there, humanitarian aid like food and medicines has not been allowed through the crossing since last Sunday, according to Scott Anderson, a senior official at UNRWA, the main U.N. agency that aids Gaza.

One reason is that Egypt, where most of the aid for Gaza is collected and loaded, is resisting sending trucks toward Kerem Shalom, according to two U.S. officials and another Western official who are involved in the aid operation, as well as two Israeli officials. The American and Israeli officials believe that Egypt is trying to put pressure on Israel to pull back from the Rafah operation.

Another official familiar with the negotiations said U.S. officials — including William J. Burns, the C.I.A. director, who was in Cairo this week for Gaza cease-fire talks — have been trying to persuade Egypt to dispatch the trucks. But Egypt has rebuffed the pressure, saying it will not allow aid to flow to Kerem Shalom while Israel has closed the Rafah crossing, and casting the situation as a matter of sovereignty, a United Nations official said.

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