Egypt-Gaza border crossing reopens for first time in two weeks, letting in aid for Palestinians

The border crossing between Egypt and Gaza has opened to let desperately needed aid flow to Palestinians running short of food, medicine and water.

Aid workers on the Egyptian side could be seen chanting and clapping as lorries carrying aid passed through the main gate into Gaza on Saturday.

According to Egypt's state-owned news, which is close to security agencies, just 20 lorries crossed into Gaza on Saturday - out of more than 200 lorries that had been waiting near the crossing for days.

But the UN said the aid is not enough.

Cindy McCain, head of the UN's World Food Program, said: “The situation is catastrophic in Gaza.”

“We need many, many, many more trucks and a continual flow of aid,” she said.

Volunteers pray to thank God after lorries with aid cross from Egypt in Gaza Credit: AP/Mohammed Asad

The World Health Organization said four of the lorries that crossed through the Rafah border were carrying medical supplies, including medicines for of chronic diseases for 1,500 people, and essential supplies for 300,000 people for three months.

The World Food Program said it has another 930 tons of emergency food waiting to be brought in. It said it needs to replenish its “rapidly diminishing supplies” as it expands food assistance from 520,000 people to 1.1 million in the next two months.

It was not clear if there was an agreement for fuel to be brought in

Lorries with humanitarian aid for the Gaza Strip enter from Egypt in Rafah on October 21 Credit: AP/Fatima Shbair

The Hamas-run government in Gaza also said the limited convoy "will not be able to change the humanitarian catastrophe,” calling for a secure corridor operating around the clock.

Israel had closed off the territory and launched airstrikes after the rampage by Hamas fighters on towns in southern Israel on 7 October.

Gaza's 2.3 million Palestinians, half of whom have fled their homes, have been rationing food and drinking filthy water. Hospitals also said they are running low on medical supplies and fuel for emergency generators, amid a power blackout.

Hundreds of foreign passport holders also waited to cross from Gaza to Egypt to escape the conflict.

Israel had insisted that nothing would enter Gaza until some 200 people captured by Hamas were freed.

The opening of the crossing comes after more than a week of high-level diplomacy, including visits to the region by the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, US President Joe Biden and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

And it came hours after Hamas released an American woman Judith Raanan and her 17-year-old daughter, Natalie.

Hamas said it released the pair on Friday for humanitarian reasons in an agreement with Qatar, which has often served as a mediator in the conflict.

The two, from Chicago, had been visiting kibbutz of Nahal Oz, in Israel near Gaza, to celebrate Jewish holidays, the family said. But Hamas and other militants then stormed into southern Israeli towns, killing hudnreds and abducting 203 others.

Hamas said it is committed to mediation efforts.

Airstrikes were reported across Gaza overnight and into Saturday.

The Hamas-run Health Ministry said 345 people were killed in Gaza in the last 24 hours, and seven hospitals are out of service after being damaged in strikes or running out of fuel.

The al-Ahli hospital in Gaza, after a missile hit it on Tuesday. Credit: AP

Israel said on Friday it does not plan to take long-term control over the Gaza strip.

But there are growing expectations of a ground attack that Israel says would be aimed at Hamas - an Islamist militant group that has ruled Gaza for 16 years.

Israel has also traded fire along its northern border with Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group.

More than 4,100 people have been killed in Gaza, according to the Health Ministry run by Hamas. That includes a disputed number of people who died in a hospital explosion earlier this week. The ministry says another 1,400 are believed to have been buried under rubble, alive or dead.

It said at least 30% of all homes in Gaza have been destroyed or heavily damaged in the war.

Israel occupied Gaza from 1967 until 2005, when it pulled up settlements and withdrew soldiers. Two years later, Hamas took over.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know...