Biden says Egypt’s Sisi has agreed to open Gaza border for aid convoy

Decision comes after Israel tightened its blockade on Gaza on October 7

US President Joe Biden onboard Air Force One. Reuters
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US President Joe Biden on Wednesday said Egyptian leader Abdel Fattah El Sisi has agreed to open the Rafah border crossing into Gaza to allow in 20 lorries with humanitarian aid.

Mr Biden said on Air Force One that he spoke to Mr El Sisi after visiting Israel, where leaders agreed to allow the aid in.

Mr El Sisi agreed to "let up to 20 trucks through to begin with", the US President told reporters.

He said it might take until Friday before the aid made it into Gaza, due to the poor condition of roads.

Mr Biden has finished a short visit to Israel, where he reaffirmed US commitment to Israel's security and called for humanitarian supplies to enter Gaza.

Lorries carrying critical aid to the besieged Gaza Strip have been stuck on the Egyptian side of the border for days, waiting for a diplomatic breakthrough that will allow them to enter.

Earlier on Wednesday, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would not allow aid to enter through its borders with Gaza, but would not stop it coming in through Egypt's Rafah crossing.

Mr Biden's trip to Israel was upended after a strike on a hospital in Gaza on Tuesday killed hundreds of people who had been sheltering there.

Palestinians and Arab nations blamed Israel for the blast, but Israel said the strike came from a failed rocket launch by the Islamic Jihad militant group.

A planned summit of Arab leaders in Amman that was set to include Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Mr El Sisi was called off afterwards.

The hospital attack drew worldwide condemnation and protests in major capitals.

Twenty lorries is a limited amount of aid, as Gaza is home to 2.3 million people who have been living under a land, air and sea blockade since 2007, when Hamas took over the territory.

Israel tightened its blockade of the tiny enclave on October 7, after Hamas gunmen launched a surprise attack on parts of southern Israel, killing 1,400 people and taking about 200 others hostage.

Israel responded by bombarding the Gaza Strip with air strikes that have killed about 3,500 people so far, Gazan authorities say.

Israel also blocked the entry of water, electricity, food and medicine, drawing international condemnation and concerns from the UN over a humanitarian crisis.

The aid is set to go to humanitarian organisations for distribution.

Israel had told of concerns that Hamas might confiscate aid.

If that were to happen, Mr Biden said: “It will end.”

Protests erupt after Gaza hospital strike kills hundreds - in pictures

Updated: October 20, 2023, 12:57 PM