May 23, 2024 | Flash Brief

Egyptian Blockade of Aid to Gaza Earns Rebuke from U.S.

May 23, 2024 | Flash Brief

Egyptian Blockade of Aid to Gaza Earns Rebuke from U.S.

Latest Developments

A senior U.S. official issued a rare rebuke of Egypt on May 22 for blocking aid transfers into Gaza. Egypt shares one border crossing with Gaza in Rafah, which has been closed since May 7. The unnamed U.S. official told The Times of Israel that aid could flow instead through Israel’s Kerem Shalom crossing. “We do not believe that aid should be held back for any reason whatsoever. Kerem Shalom is open. The Israelis have it open. And that aid should be going through Kerem Shalom.” More than 82,000 metric tons of aid is currently stranded on the Egyptian side of the crossing, Edem Wosornu, a senior United Nations aid official, said in remarks reported by The Jerusalem Post.

Cairo plays a key role in facilitating aid deliveries, as international aid that arrives in Egypt is loaded onto trucks and transferred to Israel for inspection before entering Gaza. Egypt started blocking aid transfers after the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) captured the Gaza side of the Rafah crossing as part of its limited operation in the southern Gazan city. The IDF is undertaking the ground operation to dismantle Hamas’s last four intact battalions, choke dozens of terror tunnels that snake across the Egyptian border, and free the hostages whom Israel believes Hamas is holding in Rafah.

Expert Analysis

“Egypt has an opportunity to work with the United States and Israel to create a new reality for Gazans. To do that, Egypt must work with Israel and the United States to close the smuggling routes that have allowed Hamas to line its pockets and build its deadly arsenal while — at the same time — continuing the flow of much-needed humanitarian assistance to Gazan civilians.” — Enia Krivine, Senior Director of FDD’s Israel Program and National Security Network

“Cairo is squandering a golden opportunity to play an instrumental role in the current Gaza crisis. Increasing Palestinian suffering as much as possible and harnessing it for Egypt’s blame game against Israel in the international arena isn’t the right policy now.” — Haisam Hassanein, FDD Adjunct Fellow

Egypt Threatens Israel Over Rafah Operation

Egyptian officials threatened on May 14 to downgrade their country’s relationship with Israel in protest of the IDF’s Rafah operation. The next day, an Israeli official told Haaretz that Cairo’s attitude towards Israel had flipped after the IDF advanced into Rafah. “At the beginning of the war, the Egyptians showed understanding toward our position,” the official said. “They realized why it was important for us to dismantle Hamas’s military and ruling capabilities after October 7.” However, the official said that Egypt started working “deliberately to get in our way” after the Rafah operation began.

Egypt Refuses Displaced Gazans

Cairo has only admitted a limited number of foreign passport holders and wounded civilians from Gaza into Egypt since October 7. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi said on October 12 that Egypt will not absorb displaced Gazans because “it’s important for [Gaza’s] people to stay steadfast and exist on its land.” On February 5, Cairo threatened to suspend its 1979 peace treaty with Israel if civilians evacuated to Egypt ahead of the IDF’s Rafah operation. “If even one Palestinian refugee crosses over, the peace agreement will be nullified,” unnamed Egyptian officials told Israeli media.

Egypt Strains Historic Peace Treaty With Israel,” FDD Flash Brief

Palestinian Authority Rejects Israeli Offer to Control Rafah Border Crossing,” FDD Flash Brief

Israel Opens Third Humanitarian Aid Crossing Into Northern Gaza,” FDD Flash Brief


Arab Politics Egypt Israel Israel at War