Volunteers from humanitarian aid organizations pray next to a banner reading in Arabic 'stationed until relief delivered' during a sit-in outside Rafah border gate, Egypt, 18 October 2023. EFE-EPA/ALI MOUSTAFA

Fearless Egyptian volunteers wait at Gaza border to deliver humanitarian aid

By Ali Mustafa

RA truck of a humanitarian aid convoy for the Gaza Strip is parked outside Rafah border gate, Egypt, 18 October 2023. EFE-EPA/ALI MOUSTAFA

Rafah, Egypt, Oct 19 (EFE).- Hundreds of Egyptian volunteers gathered at the Rafah crossing, which connects Egypt’s Sinai peninsula with the Gaza strip, are ready to wait however long it takes to carry humanitarian aid into the besieged Palestinian enclave, without fearing for their lives amid a relentless bombing campaign by Israel that has destroyed the crossing on the other side.

“I am here to help carry what we have to the Palestinian side. And no, I am not afraid, I am here and I will be here even if it takes one, two or three months. I will not move from here until all of this crosses (into Gaza),” Abdelrahman Farid Gomaa, a 29-year-old resident of Bir al-Abed in northern Sinai, told EFE while pointing at the aid trucks queued up at the crossing.

Gomaa, along with hundreds of Egyptian volunteers from various nonprofits that are part of the National Alliance for Civil Development Work (NACDW), have spent days at the border hoping to enter Gaza from Rafah, the only crossing into the enclave not controlled by Israel.

United States’ President Joe Biden announced on Wednesday that the US, Egypt and Israel had agreed to begin allowing aid supply into Gaza at the latest by Friday, after Israel has continuously blocked supplies in retaliation for raids carried out by Islamist group Hamas on Oct. 7 that triggered the ongoing conflict.

Cairo has repeatedly announced that the crossing is open from the Egyptian side but the Palestinian side remains closed due to lack of permission by Israel and the road being destroyed due to at least four strikes carried out by Israel Defense Forces since Oct. 7.

Egyptian foreign minister Sameh Shoukry said the crossing was attacked by Israel even as workers were trying to repair it, resulting in injuries to four Egyptian workers.

Akram Mounir, a resident of the northern Egyptian city of Al Mansoura, has already spent one week between Al Arish, the designated place for the unloading of humanitarian aid, and Rafah, working for one of the nonprofits present at the crossing.

He told EFE he was there to help his “Palestinian brothers” and was looking forward to cross into Gaza as soon as possible, adding that just the opening of the crossing remained, as they were prepared to go to the “end of the world, not just Palestine.”

On Wednesday, the NACDW began a sit-in protest at the border over not being allowed to provide humanitarian aid to Gaza and performed a collective prayer for the victims of an explosion at the enclave’s Al Ahli Arab hospital, in which at least 471 people were killed.

Hundreds of thousands of Gaza residents, who have fled to the south of the Strip, are facing extreme shortages of drinking water and food amid an intense bombing campaign by Israel, which has killed over 3,400 people and wounded around 1,400.

Apart from the aid shipments stranded at the crossing, planes carrying humanitarian assistance have been arriving at the Al Arish airport, designated by the Egyptian government for unloading containers with supplies destined for Gaza.

Aid from the World Health Organisation and other United Nations agencies has been piling up in Al Arish for days.

Last week, the NACDW issued a call for volunteers, after which hundreds of Egyptians have signed up to enter Gaza, amid widespread anger and sympathy towards the suffering of Palestinians.

Another major protest has been called on Friday against plans to evacuate Palestinians to the Sinai peninsula.

On Wednesday, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi had strongly opposed the relocation of refugees to Sinai, expressing concerns that the Israeli operation in the Gaza Strip could take years and the peninsula could turn into a base for attacks against Israel.

Sisi suggested that Israel should instead relocate Palestinians to the Negev desert in southern Israel. EFE

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