The President of Egypt, Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, and King Abdullah II of Jordan presented a united front Thursday in Cairo to reject the “policies of collective punishment” against the Palestinians of Gaza. Both leaders considered the possible forced displacement of thousands of inhabitants of the Strip to their territories as a serious threat to regional security. The Jordanian monarch and the Egyptian leader had cancelled their scheduled meeting in Amman Wednesday with U.S. President Joe Biden and of the head of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), Mahmoud Abbas, following the massacre at the al-Ahli hospital in Gaza on Tuesday.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has in recent days raised the possibility of thousands of Gazan civilians leaving the Strip and settling in neighboring Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. But Egypt, Jordan, and the PNA have objected, believing that a forced expulsion would threaten to destroy the establishment of a Palestinian state based on the pre-1967 borders: the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem.
On Wednesday, Abbas likewise described the forced displacement of Gazans as a “red line.” In Ramallah, the headquarters of the PNA, he warned that Palestinians would not abandon their land. A day earlier, King Abdullah had also expressed his rejection of the expulsion of Palestinians from Gaza to Egypt or Jordan.
Egypt is preparing to open a humanitarian aid corridor to Gaza through the Rafah border crossing — the only one not controlled by Israel, which connects the Sinai Peninsula with the Palestinian enclave — on Friday. The United States, Israel, and Egypt separately announced Wednesday an agreement to deliver emergency aid to the enclave. The lack of security guarantees by the Israeli government had until then stalled the opening of the humanitarian supply line.
Some 150 trucks are queuing on the Egyptian side of the border waiting to deliver humanitarian aid collected by Egyptian organizations, according to Ahmed Salem, director of the Sinai Foundation for Human Rights. President Biden, however, warned that initially only up to 20 cargo vehicles would be allowed through.
Work to repair the damage caused to the Rafah crossing by the four Israeli bombardments launched on the border since the start of the conflict continued Thursday, amid a substantial deployment of Egyptian security services. The need for supplies in Gaza is urgent, as food and fuel stocks are about to run out. At least four hospitals in the Gaza strip have stopped functioning, the Gazan Ministry of Health reported Thursday. The affected health centers are Beit Hanun, Al Durra, Al Karama, and the International Eye Hospital in Gaza City.
The ministry has also confirmed that the Turkish-Palestinian Hospital, one of the few providing oncology care in Gaza, has virtually stopped functioning due to the lack of fuel and electricity. The Emergency Department has been out of service. The director general of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has called for the passage of fuel, vetoed by Israel, along with the entry of medicines and food.
The day after Biden’s visit, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak also expressed his “full and continued support” for Israel on Thursday. Sunak met in Jerusalem with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “We want you to win,” proclaimed the British leader, who welcomed the imminent reopening of the Rafah crossing for humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip.
More than 3,700 Palestinians have been killed in and around Gaza since the start of hostilities following the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel. In Israel, some 1,400 people have been killed, including more than 300 military personnel, and more than 200 people are still being held hostage by Gaza militias. In the West Bank, 64 Palestinians have been killed in confrontations with Jewish settlers and security forces.
Imminent Gaza invasion order
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Thursday told soldiers deployed near the Gaza border that he anticipated an upcoming ground offensive against Gaza, which has been controlled by Hamas since 2007. “You see Gaza now from a distance, you will soon see it from inside. The order [to invade] will come,” Gallant assured them.
Rocket barrages from the Strip against southern and central Israel continued throughout the day, along with waves of Israeli bombardment against militia positions in Gaza. One of the latter attacks killed Jamila al-Shanti, the first woman to hold a senior position in Hamas, while she was at her home. Al-Shanti was the widow of Abdel Aziz al-Rantisi, a co-founder of the Palestinian Islamist group, who was killed by Israel in 2004.
In response to attacks by the Lebanese pro-Iranian Hezbollah militia, Israel fired artillery shells in the north of the country on Thursday. The Israeli military said on social media that Hezbollah fired two anti-tank missiles from Lebanese soil at Kibbutz Manara in northern Israel. Shortly thereafter, Israeli forces responded by opening fire on the point from which the Hezbollah attack initiated.
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