Thousands of people have taken the path marked by Israel and have begun a complicated exodus from the north of Gaza to the south of the Strip due to fear of a possible land invasion and are now “trapped” in the south, where the humanitarian situation continues to worsen, according to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The Gaza Strip is a territory of just 365 square kilometers which is connected to the outside by three border crossings, of which only one, Rafá, does not depend on Israel. This crossing links the Strip with Egypt and has become a potential lifeline in the face of the “total blockade” that the Israeli Government has imposed on the territory controlled by the Palestinian group Hamas.
Israel has already maintained a tight blockade on the Strip since 2007, when Hamas consolidated its control over Gaza following elections and a subsequent fratricidal conflict with Al Fatah, which continues to control the West Bank to this day.
Since the October 7 attacks on Israeli soil, the Erez crossing, a common transit point for people, and Kerem Shalom – near Egypt, intended for goods – have been completely closed. Not even the most basic supplies reach Gaza and the territory is already depleting reserves of fuel, food or medicine.
The Government of Israel has shown no signs of giving in and reopening its two stepsso the international community is focused on persuading Egypt to take measures at Rafá, a point that cannot be understood as a normal border crossing because, in fact, it is not continuously open to the passage of people or estate.
So far this year, the UN has registered more than 90,000 entries and as many exits from the Strip through the Rafá crossing, but until the end of July This link between Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula had only been open for 138 days., while another 74 had remained closed. In 2002, it was also closed for 120 days and between 2015 and 2017 the number of days of blockade even exceeded 300.
The international community, including the UN, is now contemplating that the Rafah crossing will serve as a route into Gaza for humanitarian aid. In fact, several organizations, including the Red Crescent, have already chartered supplies to the El Arish airport, with a view to their subsequent transfer by land to the Strip once the Egyptian authorities give the green light.
The Government of Egypt has suggested that it is Israel that has not fully authorized this entry, given that the situation in the southern part of the Strip continues to be volatile and, in fact, Recurrent bombings are recorded in areas surrounding Rafá. Dozens of trucks crowd on the other side of the border, waiting for the political agreement.
The Egyptian authorities have warned of the risk that would entail a possible mass exodus of Palestinians from one of the most densely populated areas of the world. More than two million people live in the Gaza Strip and their departure would open a new front in a scenario that already seems complicated in both humanitarian and political terms.
Egypt has also adopted measures in recent years to contain the potential expansion of Islamist terrorism in the northern part of the Sinai Peninsula, which is why it fears a possible contagion of insecurity to its own territory.