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Saudi Arabia's Gaza aid threatened by Rafah closure, aid official says

2 min

Saudi Arabia's main humanitarian agency said on Thursday the Israeli closure of Rafah and other crossings into Gaza was hampering its aid efforts to send lifesaving food, some of which was in danger of spoiling.

Commercial food trucks are seen near a checkpoint near Hebron, amid the ongoing conflict in Gaza between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank May 28, 2024. Reuters/Mussa Qawasma

Saudi Arabia's main humanitarian agency said on Thursday the Israeli closure of Rafah and other crossings into Gaza was hampering its aid efforts to send lifesaving food, some of which was in danger of spoiling.

"We have hundreds of trucks now piling in Rafah because of the closure of Rafah and other corridors. We are facing big restrictions to reach the people of Gaza," said Abdullah al Rabeeah, the head of the state-run King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre (KSRelief).

Rabeeah, whose agency has provided over $6 billion in aid worldwide in the last few years, said food on hundreds of trucks waiting to enter Gaza and stored in warehouses could be approaching expiry with the closure of the crossing since May 7, when Israel stepped up its offensive.

Food and medicine for Palestinians in Gaza are piling up in Egypt while sporadic supplies are now sent through Jordan and the West Bank to Gaza's Kerem Shalom crossing, U.N. officials say.

Some officials say as many as 2,500 trucks were waiting, with Egyptian warehouses nearly full.

"We are worried that food items will lose their expiry date because the corridor is closed and we are checking those food items ... So it is a big burden on us," Rabeeah, who is also Saudi royal palace advisor and former minister of health, told Reuters.

The war in Gaza began when Hamas gunmen burst into southern Israel on Oct. 7, killed 1,200 people and took around 250 hostages back into Gaza, according to Israeli tallies. Israel's offensive in retaliation has killed 38,000 people, according to the Gaza health ministry.

Rabeeah signed agreements with top Palestinian health and aid officials in Amman to treat some of Gaza's cancer patients in the kingdom. He said another multi-million-dollar project would fund artificial prosthetics for the thousands of Gazan victims who lost body parts.

Rabeeah echoed sentiment by U.N. bodies and nongovernmental organizations that Israel should immediately lift restrictions and stop the use of food aid as a weapon of war.

"All corridors should be opened without any restriction in order to salvage the life of children, women and elderly people," he said.

COGAT, an Israeli Defense Ministry agency tasked with coordinating aid deliveries into Palestinian territories, has said it is enhancing efforts to boost aid into Gaza.

The Saudi government's humanitarian arm launched an "air and sea bridge" from Riyadh to Al Arish and Rafah, has flown more than 54 civilian and military planes and sent eight ships through Jeddah port relief operations in partnership with the U.N., Rabeeah said.

"The need is way, way above what is getting in for the people of Gaza," he added, saying the agency had contingency plans to scale up aid, including temporary homes, once the war ends.

"Should there be a ceasefire and long-lasting ceasefire, you cannot leave people living in tents," Rabeeah said, adding that his country would play a major role in reconstruction of the enclave. He did not elaborate.

By Suleiman Al-Khalidi

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