ARISH: United Nations secretary-general Antonio Guterres flew to Egypt’s Sinai peninsula today in a push to get aid flowing into the besieged Palestinian territory of Gaza. However, it was unclear when delivery of relief materials stockpiled in Egypt would start.
In Geneva, the UN humanitarian office said it was in advanced talks with all parties in the Israel-Hamas conflict to ensure an aid operation can soon be conducted in Gaza.
The US said details of a deal to send aid through the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza were still being hammered out.
Earlier, Washington said an agreement had been reached for the passage of the first 20 trucks, but UN officials say that any delivery of aid needs to be done at scale and in a sustained way.
Before the current conflict between Israel and Hamas, which rules Gaza, about 450 aid trucks were arriving there daily.
Most of Gaza’s 2.3 million people depend on humanitarian aid. The coastal enclave has been under a blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt since Hamas took control of it in 2007.
“We are in deep and advanced negotiations with all relevant sides to ensure that an aid operation into Gaza starts as quickly as possible and with the right conditions,” Jens Laerke, spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha), told reporters in Geneva.
The UN was encouraged by reports that the first delivery was due to start “in the next day or so,” Laerke added.
Israel’s siege and bombardment of Gaza launched in retaliation for a deadly Hamas incursion into Israel, has created a humanitarian crisis there.
Laerke said Gaza was in dire need of water, food, fuel, and medical supplies.
Rafah is the only crossing with Gaza for goods and people that does not border Israel.
Efforts to get aid into Gaza have been complicated by the need to agree on an inspection mechanism and a push to evacuate foreign passport holders from Gaza.
Roads leading into Gaza are being repaired after being hit by bombardments in the past two weeks.
A UN official said more than 200 trucks of aid were ready to move from Sinai to Gaza.
During previous conflicts, aid had been delivered to Gaza during humanitarian pauses through the Kerem Shalom crossing, which is controlled by Israel.
But Israel has said it will not allow aid to enter from its territory until Hamas releases the hostages it took during its Oct 7 attack.
It has said aid can enter through Egypt as long as it does not end up in the hands of Hamas.
Egypt has said it will not accept any mass displacement of Gazans into Sinai, reflecting Arab fears that Palestinians could again flee or be forced from their homes en masse, as they were during the war surrounding Israel’s creation.
Egypt is also concerned by security in northeastern Sinai, where it faced an Islamist insurgency that escalated a decade ago, and by the risk of any spillover from Gaza.