May 13, 2024 | FDD's Long War Journal

Israel Opens Another Crossing for Aid to Enter Northern Gaza

May 13, 2024 | FDD's Long War Journal

Israel Opens Another Crossing for Aid to Enter Northern Gaza

The Israel Defense Forces opened what they dubbed the “western Erez” crossing into northern Gaza on May 12, according to a statement. The opening of a new crossing in the north appears to mean that the IDF has now opened three crossings into northern Gaza. Most of the crossings were closed after the Hamas attack on October 7, but the IDF on May 1 opened the Erez crossing, and in early April the Ministry of Defense also coordinated the opening of a separate northern crossing. The new northern crossing means that there are now more options for delivering aid to northern Gaza.

“In accordance with the directive of the government of Israel and in coordination with the U.S. government, the ‘Western Erez’ Crossing was opened in the area of the northern Gaza Strip for the transfer of humanitarian aid to the residents of the Gaza Strip,” the IDF said on May 12. “The crossing was established under the operational control of the Engineering and Construction Directorate, the Ministry of Defense Crossings Points Authority and the IDF,” the statement from the IDF added. “It was led by the engineering unit of the Gaza Division, the engineering array and the construction unit of the Southern Command, as part of the effort to increase aid routes to the Gaza Strip, and to the northern Gaza Strip in particular.” The IDF says that dozens of trucks of flour have now entered Gaza via the new “western Erez” crossing. The trucks come from Ashdod, which is about one hour north of the new crossing.

The new crossing was built near the community of Zikim and next to two IDF posts that are adjacent to the border. These two posts, one of them called Yiftah, were attacked on October 7 by Hamas. The entire area of Zikim beach and these bases continued to be threatened by terrorists hiding in the dunes for five days after the initial attack. Once the area was secured, the IDF deployed artillery and tanks not far from Zikim and also prepared for the entry into Gaza in this area. On October 27, IDF tanks of the 401st brigade entered Gaza from the Zikim area, heading south along the coast. The area has been secured by the 162nd division since then, and now by troops on the border. Because it has been relatively free from new terrorist threats, it was apparently judged to be a place where there could be a new crossing point. A parking lot and road was paved, linking up with existing roads in the area on both sides.

The northern crossings, at Erez, Western Erez, and the other crossing point that is sometimes called Gate 96, which is the access to the Netzarim corridor the IDF uses south of Gaza City, now together enable a plethora of ways for aid to enter northern Gaza. This is taking place as the IDF expanded operations in Jabalya in northern Gaza on May 13. It also comes as the IDF is fighting in Rafah, and Egypt has closed the Rafah crossing in the wake of IDF tanks seizing the Gazan side of the crossing on May 7. In addition, Hamas has carried out attacks on the Kerem Shalom crossing in southern Israel which enables trucks to access Gaza. The attacks began on May 5 and killed four soldiers, and they then escalated as the IDF moved into eastern Rafah. This has put pressure on humanitarian aid reaching Rafah and southern Gaza. On May 13, the Palestinian Authority reportedly turned down a deal to run the Rafah crossing.

The closure of the Egyptian Rafah crossing and the attacks on Kerem Shalom mean that southern and central Gaza are now facing similar humanitarian concerns that northern Gaza did during the first months of the war. On February 29, trucks entering northern Gaza were stampeded by Gazan civilians, leading to more than 100 deaths. This led the US to send US Army ships to help build a floating pier off the coast of Gaza in order to facilitate aid coming from Cyprus. The pier was finally completed on May 7. Although a cargo ship sailed from Cyprus to meet it, questions remain about its deployment. The IDF has carved out a 67-acre site near a temporary pier south of Gaza City, which is supposed to receive aid from the floating pier. As the IDF expands operations in Rafah, the issue of aid delivery has become more acute. It remains to be seen if the new Western Erez crossing or other deliveries can stave off concerns about humanitarian aid reaching southern Gaza.

Reporting from Israel, Seth J. Frantzman is an adjunct fellow at FDD and a contributor to FDD’s Long War Journal. He is the acting news editor and senior Middle East correspondent and analyst at The Jerusalem Post. 

Issues:

Israel Israel at War Military and Political Power