update deskIsrael at War

Israeli, Egyptian, US officials to discuss Rafah Crossing

Cairo wants the IDF to leave the border point before it lets aid into Gaza.

Hamas officials arrive at the Rafah Border Crossing on their way to Egypt, Oct. 3, 2021. Photo by Anas-Mohammed/Shutterstock.
Hamas officials arrive at the Rafah Border Crossing on their way to Egypt, Oct. 3, 2021. Photo by Anas-Mohammed/Shutterstock.

Officials from Israel, Egypt and the United States were set to meet on Sunday to discuss reopening the Rafah Crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, which Cairo continues to block.

Cairo is demanding a “total Israeli withdrawal” from the Gaza side of the crossing in exchange for reopening it.

After the IDF took control of the the crossing in early May, Egypt moved to close it, not wanting to work with Israel on the matter.

Egyptian President Abdel al-Fatah el-Sisi was preventing aid trucks from passing through the border, even as his government blamed the development on Jerusalem, Al-Qahera News reported at the time.

About two weeks ago, Israel proposed to work alongside Cairo to jointly operate it, while Egypt insisted that Palestinians control it.

Officials from the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) presented the proposal during a visit to Cairo. Jerusalem wants to allow humanitarian aid through Rafah but is dependent on Egyptian cooperation to do so.

The Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority has also rebuffed an Israeli offer to help manage the border crossing, U.S. government officials said this week.

Last week, Egyptian soldiers opened fire at Israel Defense Forces troops stationed on the Gaza side of the Rafah border.

An exchange of fire followed, with one Egyptian soldier killed.

The IDF confirmed that “A few hours ago, there was a shooting incident on the Egyptian border, which is the subject of an investigation,” adding that “a dialogue is taking place with the Egyptian side.”

Israel’s Channel 12 News cited an Egyptian army statement as saying that Cairo was probing a “shooting incident in which one Egyptian security personnel was killed in the area of the Rafah Crossing.”

American ire

Cairo’s refusal to be flexible has drawn the ire of the Americans. In May, Secretary of State Antony Blinken called on the Egyptian government to take whatever measures are necessary to ensure the entry of aid into Gaza.

“We do strongly urge our Egyptian partners to do everything that they can on their end of things to make sure that assistance is flowing,” the diplomat said at a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

“We need to find a way to make sure that the assistance that would go through Rafah can get through safely,” Blinken told lawmakers.

Another senior Biden administration official also offered a rebuke of Cairo’s refusal to work with Jerusalem to coordinate aid shipments.

“What should be going into Kerem Shalom [a crossing at the junction of two borders, between the Gaza Strip and Israel, and between the Gaza Strip and Egypt] is the U.N. assistance which is now in Egypt. Egypt is holding that back until the Rafah Crossing situation settles out,” the official told reporters during a briefing.

“We do not believe that aid should be held back for any reason whatsoever. Kerem Shalom is open. The Israelis have it open. And that aid should be going through Kerem Shalom,” the official added.

In an effort to assuage Cairo’s concerns, the European Union has tried to formulate a plan.

European foreign ministers gave initial approval to send E.U. observers to the Rafah Crossing, the bloc’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell announced last week.

Brussels seeks to revive the European Union Border Assistance Mission (EUBAM) Rafah, which has not been operational since 2007, when Hamas terrorists violently ousted the Palestinian Authority from Gaza.

“I have a green light from E.U. ministers to reactivate the Rafah border mission,” Borrell told reporters on Monday afternoon, adding that the initiative would need the support of Israel, Egypt and Palestinians.

“Today we can have a political decision and then it needs to be implemented technically,” Borrell said.

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