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Gaza: UN welcomes Kerem Shalom border crossing announcement

The Kerem Shalom border crossing. (file)
The Kerem Shalom border crossing. (file)

Gaza: UN welcomes Kerem Shalom border crossing announcement

Peace and Security

The UN Spokesperson has welcomed the announcement on Friday by the Israeli cabinet that the Kerem Shalom border crossing into the Gaza Strip will be reopened.

Until the Hamas-led terror attacks of 7 October and Israel’s full-scale military response which has devastated much of the enclave, the crossing from Israel was the main route for commercial goods into Gaza.

Until now, limited humanitarian aid has only been allowed to pass through the Rafah crossing with Egypt, which serves mainly as a pedestrian crossing, although aid truck inspections have been taking place at Kerem Shalom, creating a complex and time-consuming route for lifesaving deliveries.

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“The fast implementation of this agreement will increase the flow of aid”, said UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric, adding that “a humanitarian ceasefire will increase the distribution of that aid across Gaza even more.”

According to news reports, once details are finalized, aid will be offloaded on the Gaza side of Kerem Shalom.

Mr. Dujarric said that UN humanitarians with the aid coordination office OCHA have reported that much of Gaza on Friday remained flooded following heavy rains “compounding already extreme human suffering.” 

Doctors trapped

“There have been clashes, also according to OCHA, in the vicinity of Al Awda Hospital in Jabaliya in northern Gaza, with 250 doctors, patients and their family members reportedly trapped.”

Internet services were restored after being down for several hours on Thursday, which severely impact the ability of emergency workers to do their jobs and cutting a vital communication route for hundreds of thousands.

The UN relief agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) reported on Friday that nearly 1.3 million displaced people are sheltering in 155 UNRWA installations.

“The average number of internally displaced people in UNRWA facilities, shelters, located in the middle and southern Gaza is 12,387, more than four times their capacity”, said the UN Spokesperson.

Eight out of 22 UNRWA health centres are still operational in the Middle and Southern parts of Gaza and UNRWA continued to provide healthcare to internally displaced people at shelters through 97 medical teams.”

He added that each team is composed of just one to two doctors and a nurse while around 591 health workers in health centres and shelters provided support to some 12,000 patients.

Azzawieh Market in Gaza City lies in ruins.
© UNICEF/Omar Al-Qattaa
Azzawieh Market in Gaza City lies in ruins.

Spillover in the Red Sea

Responding to a question at the regular noon briefing in New York on the announcement by commercial shipping giant Maersk that it was pausing the passage of ships through the Red Sea, in response to attacks by Houthi militia, Mr. Dujarric said the decision was “understandable”.

The group whose militia control much of Yemen including the Red Sea coast, has vowed to target ships travelling to Israel along the key shipping route, in support of Hamas. The company said in a statement the attacks were “alarming” and pose a “significant threat” to seafarers.

Two ships reportedly came under attack in the strait just on Friday – one hit by a drone and another by missiles.

The UN Spokesperson said the decision illustrated the impact of the “continuing attacks” by the Houthis.

“Freedom of navigation is a bedrock of international law, it needs to be respected…That waterway is critical to the global economy and global commerce”, he added.