Israel Reopens Gaza Crossings for Humanitarian Aid, Relief Workers

Israeli Defense Minister Gantz calls to leave Gaza on the 'basic humanitarian threshold,' emphasizing the need to prevent humanitarian aid reaching the hands of Hamas

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A Palestinian man unloads aid from Egypt via the Rafah border crossing, Sunday.
A Palestinian man unloads aid from Egypt via the Rafah border crossing, Sunday.Credit: SAID KHATIB - AFP

The Erez and Kerem Shalom border crossings between Israel and Gaza are due to open on Monday for the transfer of humanitarian aid. UN medical aid will cross through Kerem Shalom, and aid workers and foreign journalists will enter through Erez. The crossings were closed on Sunday.

Hamas estimates that the material damage incurred in Gaza over the 11 days of fighting with Israel stands at about a quarter of a billion dollars. Of this figure, provided by the head of Hamas’ information office, Salameh Maaruf, over $92 million of damage was done to residential housing and the offices of various non-governmental organizations throughout the Strip. 

The Palestinian death toll in the fighting stands at at least 248, including 66 children, but bodies are still being extracted from the rubble. Hamas rocket barrages killed 13 Israeli civilians, including two children and three foreign workers. 

Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Sunday that he intends to condition all Gaza aid, save for humanitarian relief, on the release of the Israeli captives and bodies of soldiers held by Hamas in the Strip.

Hamas has been holding Israeli civilians Avera Mengistu and Hisham Al-Sayed since 2014 and 2015 respectively, and the bodies of two soldiers, Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul since 2014, in Gaza. In exchange for their release, Hamas has urged the prisoners of its choosing freed from Israeli jails.

Gantz told journalists that "We need to allow basic humanitarian aid as needed. The rest, we need to condition on the advancement and solution of the issue of captives and missing people." Gantz called to leave Gaza on the "basic humanitarian threshold" until a diplomatic process takes place.

Israel closed the Kerem Shalom crossing early on in the military operation, but did reopen it to transfer aid to Gaza from Jordan on May 18. While Israeli soldiers were transferring the supplies, militants in Gaza fired three mortar shells across the border, wounding one Israeli soldier. The crossing was then closed once more.

The security establishment is now trying to form a system for transferring money and equipment for rebuilding the Strip without it falling into the hands of Hamas. "It's very complicated," Gantz said. "In the end, you need concrete in order to build, and we understand that some of the concrete goes to tunnels," he added, referring to Hamas' underground system for moving its forces. "I'm not playing dumb, some of the materials will fall into Hamas' hands."

During the most recent round of fighting with Hamas, which ended with a ceasefire on Friday, the Israeli military struck production facilities, metalworking sites and tunnels in order to thwart Hamas' use of materials intended for the rehabilitation of the Strip. "I imagine that they will make an effort to reproduce some of these things," Gantz said, "but I don't think their abilities will be greater than what they were before."   

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