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Peace and Conflict

Israel opens Erez Crossing to aid | Update May 2nd 2024

Israel opens Erez Crossing to aid via BICom

What’s happened: For the first time, Israel has opened the Erez Crossing to the northern Gaza Strip to allow in aid.

  • Colonel Moshe Tetro, head of Israel’s Coordination and Liaison Administration for Gaza has said he hopes the crossing will be open every day and reach a target of 500 aid trucks entering the coastal enclave every day. This would be in line with pre-war supplies, and represent a significant increase in aid entry during the past seven months.
  • On the first day it was opened, 30 trucks carrying food and medical supplies from Jordan were able to enter the Gaza Strip.
  • Meanwhile, Israeli negotiators remain are on standby to return to Cairo for a continuation of talks but await a Hamas answer.
  • There is concern that as of last night, Hamas appears poised to reject the latest proposal.
  • The group’s Lebanon-based official Osama Hamdan told local media that “Our position on the current negotiating paper is negative.” He added that “the negative position does not mean negotiations have stopped. There is a back-and-forth issue.”
  • Hamas’s opposition to the current deal ostensibly stems from it wanting iron-clad guarantees up front that Israel would end the war. Further details of the current proposal were floated yesterday by Lebanese media and indicate that negotiations for a full ceasefire would instead be conducted during the second stage of a three stage ceasefire.
  • US Secretary of State Blinken met with Prime Minister Netanyahu yesterday. Netanyahu said “If Hamas doesn’t accept the new proposal that is on the table, there won’t be a deal and Israel will begin an operation in Rafah. We won’t agree to a deal that includes an end to the war.”
  • Israel had “already been very forthcoming.” Netanyahu said, and  “is prepared to wait with [a military operation in] Rafah, but not to cancel it entirely.”
  • Blinken, who has recently praised the generosity of Israel’s ceasefire proposal, reiterated US opposition to an operation in Rafah.
  • He later told hostage families: “Bringing your loved ones home is at the heart of everything we’re trying to do, and we will not rest until everyone—man, woman, soldier, civilian, young, old—is back home.”

Context: Historically, the Erez crossing has facilitated the egress and ingress of people rather than supplies into the Gaza Strip. Its repurposing to allow aid into the coastal enclave has been a longstanding request of the international community who are particularly concerned by the humanitarian situation in its northern sector where it is believed to be most severe.

  • If Israel begins its anticipated assault on Rafah, it is almost certain that humanitarian demands in the northern Gaza Strip will significantly increase given the inflow of evacuees from the south. Together, the reopened Erez crossing and US-built floating pier which is approximately 50 percent complete will allow for more comprehensive aid delivery in the northern Gaza Strip.
  • While Netanyahu’s remarks suggest Israel is determined to launch an operation in Rafah whether or not a hostage deal is reached, the two elements are intimately connected.
  • According to the Lebanese report, the first, 40-day, stage would see a temporary ceasefire implemented, and the IDF withdrawing east of the densely-crowded parts of the Gaza Strip.
    • Aerial surveillance flights over the Gaza Strip will stop for eight hours a day, and for ten hours on the days when hostages are released.
    • Hamas would  release at least 33 living hostages, among them women and children (aged under 19), elderly (over 50), ailing and injured.
    • Israel would release 20 Palestinian prisoners aged under 19 and female prisoners for every hostage, based on a list drawn up by Hamas.
    • After 16 days, international organisations and the UN will start providing humanitarian services in all of the Gaza Strip and start repairing infrastructure throughout the Gaza Strip.
  • The second stage would last 42 days and would see arrangements for restoring “sustainable calm” in the Strip implemented before the release of further (living male) hostages and Palestinian security prisoners.
  • In the third stage, also lasting 42 days, the bodies of dead hostages would be released in exchange for the bodies of dead Palestinians. A five-year reconstruction program for the Gaza Strip will also be launched.
  • 133 hostages are still being held captive in the Gaza Strip. It is unclear how many remain alive.
  • An operation in Rafah has been postponed at least twice already due to international pressure from Israel’s allies, but if Hamas does not take the current deal an operation appears inevitable.
  • This time, Israel has helped facilitate expanded humanitarian zones with tens of thousands of tents in preparation to move the civilian population from Rafah prior to a military incursion.
  • According to COGAT, on April 30, aid entering Gaza included:
    • "351 aid trucks were inspected and transferred to the Gaza Strip," and "166 trucks were distributed within Gaza, 63 of which contained food."
    • "107 food aid trucks were coordinated to northern Gaza."
    • 32 trucks of flour enabled 26 bakeries to provide close to 5 million breads, rolls, and pita breads daily.
  • The logic for a Rafah operation remains:
    • To engage, destroy, and dismantle the remaining elements of Hamas’s military structure.
    • To block the smuggling routes from Egypt, which is crucial to preventing the re-armament of the Strip.
    • To continue to hunt down the Hamas leadership which, having evaded Israeli forces elsewhere, are now seemingly underneath Rafah.
    • If Hamas refuses the latest deal, the dwindling hope remains that some hostages could still be rescued.
  • Netanyahu is also facing increasing domestic political pressure with both the right wing and centrist flanks, pulling him in opposite directions and threatening to dismantle his coalition.
  • In addition to political pressure, there have been ongoing public demonstrations from the hostages families and their supporters to conclude a deal.
  • There have also been right-wing protesters attempting to block aid entering Gaza, arguing that the aid should be conditional to the release of the hostages. 

Looking ahead: Israel is still waiting for Hamas's counter-proposal.

  • The UK continues to support humanitarian distribution efforts for the Gaza Strip. The Royal Fleet Auxiliary is expected to deploy one of its landing ships to the Eastern Mediterranean to provide accommodation for hundreds of US sailors and soldiers working to establish the aid delivery pier, while the UK Hydrographic Office is also sharing analysis of the Gazan shore with US planners to develop the pier.

via BICom