Palestinians with dual nationalities wait to cross the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, southern Gaza Strip, 16 October 2023. EFE/EPA/HAITHAM IMAD

Israel shells Rafah border crossing in Gaza

Rafah, Gaza Strip, Oct 16 (EFE).- Israeli aircraft on Monday bombed the Rafah border crossing, which connects the Gaza Strip with Egypt, where a crowd of Gazans had gathered amid rumors that the crossing would open to allow the entry of humanitarian aid.

Monday was the fourth time that Israel attacked the crossing at Rafah since the war with the Palestinian militias in Gaza, led by Hamas, began on Oct 7.

Palestinians with dual nationalities wait to cross the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, southern Gaza Strip, 16 October 2023. EFE/EPA/HAITHAM IMAD

Rafah is the only border crossing in Gaza that is not controlled by Israel.

Thousands of Gazans flocked to Rafah on Monday morning amid reports that it would be opened for a few hours to allow Palestinians with foreign passports to leave for Egypt.

Humanitarian aid was also expected to enter during a temporary ceasefire, but the crossing did not open.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Israel on Monday for the second time since the war began after a Middle East tour that has taken him to Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, in a bid to deescalate the soaring tensions in the region that have been sparked by the war, the deadliest ever between Israel and Gaza militants.

Humanitarian aid items are packed for a convoy to be transported to the Gaza Strip, in Arish, Egypt, 16 October 2023. EFE/EPA/ALI MOUSTAFA

Blinken himself announced on Sunday night in Cairo that an agreement had been reached with the involvement of the UN, Egypt and other actors to open the Rafah crossing for the entry of humanitarian aid.

Blinken met on Monday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Isaac Herzog.

A statement by state department spokesman Matthew Miller said Blinken had “underlined his firm support for Israel’s right to defend itself from Hamas’ terrorism” as well as reaffirming America’s “determination to provide the Israeli government with what it needs.” 

They also addressed the US’ efforts with the UN and regional partners “to facilitate the provision of humanitarian aid to civilians.”

An announcement on a ceasefire to open the Rafah crossing for a few hours has not been ruled out.

The area around the town of Rafah, at the southern tip of the Gaza Strip, is home to hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people, who arrived in recent days after Israel on Friday ordered the evacuation of the entire population of the northern part of the enclave, more than 1.1 million people, although only half were displaced.

Tensions have risen sharply since Hamas launched a land, sea and air attack from Gaza on Oct. 7 that killed at least 1,400 people, the vast majority of them civilians, as well as taking over 100 hostages.

The surprise assault has been met with a heavy counterattack by Israel, which has been shelling the Gaza Strip for 10 days, killing at least 2,750 Palestinians and wounding 9,700. EFE