Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza: Egypt-Gaza border crossing opens Amidst Struggles
Egypt-Gaza border crossing opened on October 21, marking a crucial development in the midst of a dire humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip. This opening allows desperately needed aid to flow into the territory for the first time since Israel sealed it off following a violent incursion by Hamas two weeks earlier.
Gaza, home to 2.3 million Palestinians, has been grappling with severe shortages of food, clean water, medical supplies, and fuel for emergency generators, worsened by a territory-wide power blackout. As a result, the population has been rationing food and drinking contaminated water, while hospitals are on the brink of running out of essential medical resources.
Diplomatic Efforts and the Release of Captives
The border opening was the result of extensive high-level diplomacy involving various mediators, including U.S. President Joe Biden and U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. Israel’s initial insistence on not allowing any aid into Gaza until around 200 people captured by Hamas were freed was a significant obstacle. Despite more than 200 trucks loaded with approximately 3,000 tonnes of aid positioned near the crossing, only 20 trucks were reported to have crossed into Gaza on October 21.
The release of an American woman and her teenage daughter, who were held captive by Hamas since the October 7 incursion into Israel, further contributed to the evolving situation. Hamas released Judith Raanan and her 17-year-old daughter, Natalie, in an agreement with Qatar, a key Mideast mediator, citing humanitarian reasons for their release.
The situation remains complex, with growing expectations of a potential Israeli ground offensive to confront Hamas, further raising concerns of a second front with Lebanon’s Hezbollah. Israel has urged its citizens to leave certain countries and issued travel warnings. Meanwhile, protests against Israel’s actions in Gaza have erupted across the region, adding to the already highly volatile situation.
In the long term, Israel has laid out a three-stage plan for Gaza, signaling that it does not intend to reoccupy the territory. The plan involves airstrikes and possible ground maneuvers to root out Hamas, followed by a lower-intensity conflict to defeat remaining resistance, and ultimately, the creation of a new security regime in Gaza. However, the specifics of who would govern Gaza and the nature of the new security regime remain unclear. This plan stems from Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, which led to Hamas taking control and subsequent conflicts.