Israel Reopens a Gaza Crossing Critical for Humanitarian Aid

Israel said on Wednesday that it had reopened the Kerem Shalom crossing into the Gaza Strip after closing it days earlier because of an attack by Hamas. But the United Nations said it was too soon to tell how quickly the humanitarian aid that is critical to stemming a hunger crisis in Gaza would begin to flow again.

Kerem Shalom has been the main aid conduit for more than two million people in Gaza who face what humanitarian workers say is a serious food deficit. Two senior American officials said recently that famine had already begun in parts of Gaza, caused largely by strict controls on aid imposed by Israel since Oct. 7, when Hamas led a deadly attack on Israel, and by the difficulty of distributing food, fuel and medicine within the enclave.

Israel launched an incursion into the southern Gaza city of Rafah on Monday night and closed the crossing with Egypt there. That crossing is still shut, but on Wednesday, facing calls by the United Nations and several governments to avoid making a dire situation even worse, Israel said it would reopen Kerem Shalom.

Jens Laerke, a spokesman for the U.N. humanitarian office in Geneva, said the United Nations was checking to see how quickly aid shipments could resume. “We can only confirm once a drop has been made and pickup on the other side has begun,” he said. Earlier, COGAT, the Israeli agency responsible for coordinating aid deliveries into Gaza, said that aid trucks were arriving at the crossing and would go into Gaza after inspection.

Juliette Touma, the communications director for the main U.N. agency aiding Palestinians in Gaza, known as UNRWA, said that “no supplies have come in yet” through Kerem Shalom.

The amount of aid going into Gaza each day has fluctuated since Oct. 7, but U.N. data shows that overall the number of trucks flowing through Kerem Shalom and Rafah is down about 75 percent from before the war. Part of the problem is that commercial imports have also virtually stopped.

Aid experts also say that the number of aid trucks entering Gaza, which this month is an average of 180 per day through the two main crossing points combined, is inadequate to address the hunger crisis. Achieving that, they say, would require many more trucks, an influx of aid workers, training of Palestinian medical personnel to treat people suffering from malnutrition, the restoration of medical facilities and, above all, an end to the military conflict.

In addition to the southern crossing points, COGAT said on Tuesday that 60 trucks had passed through the Erez crossing into northern Gaza, which Israel reopened under pressure from the Biden administration after an Israeli airstrike last month killed seven aid workers.

But Ms. Touma said that supplies were not coming through Erez on a regular basis, and that overall “much more” aid needs to go into Gaza.

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