Aid passing through Gaza’s ‘lifeline’ northern crossing at Erez for first time

Aid passing through Gaza’s ‘lifeline’ northern crossing at Erez for first time
  • PublishedMay 2, 2024

Further south, in Rafah, such is the fear that Israel is about to launch a ground offensive that some are leaving and heading back north – even moving back into the ruins of their destroyed homes.

An Israel Defence Forces checkpoint waves our car down, and our passports and IDs are checked by soldiers – we’re then told to pull up behind other cars before a signal is given to follow.

The convoy moves off down a road I’ve travelled so many times that I can’t remember how many.

We’re taken to the Erez Crossing point, a transit hub between Israel and Gaza.

It’s a place where every day for years thousands of Palestinian workers would queue in line to pass across the border; their paperwork, identity, and travel permits, checked and rechecked by soldiers.

Like the Palestinians, all foreign journalists – no Israelis were allowed – crossed here by foot, dragging our equipment a kilometre or so to meet up with our Gaza-based colleagues inside.

Many of them have never left the Gaza Strip.

Erez was like a crossing point between two worlds, between wealth and poverty, and between freedom and incarceration.

It was also almost like a portal in a sci-fi film – threatening, indestructible, unassailable. And then 7 October happened and Hamas attacked.

Now battered watchtowers, damaged buildings, and workers repairing the crossing are testament to the fact Hamas overran this place – something most people thought was impossible.

A damaged watchtower
A damaged checkpoint at the Erez Crossing
Image:A damaged watchtower (above) and checkpoint at the Erez Crossing

This is the first time we’ve been allowed here since that day, and it’s also the first time humanitarian aid is being allowed to cross into northern Gaza through Erez.

We are led past new security fences and through old security walls, taken on foot by the IDF into Gaza itself to see the aid trucks from Jordan offloading the aid.

This is happening because of international pressure, led by the US, for Israel to do more to increase aid for Gazans.

We watch as the humanitarian cargo is offloaded from the trucks and placed on the ground.

Once these trucks have left, the pallets of aid will be collected by different trucks sent by aid agencies operating in Gaza.

Aid trucks entering Gaza
Jordanian flags on aid boxes
Image:Aid from Jordan was being offloaded when Sky News visited

The aid will then be taken further into northern Gaza, where it is so desperately needed.

‘Lessons learnt’ from aid workers’ deaths

The coordination of the movement of the aid inside is the most dangerous bit for the agencies.

Last month, seven workers from the World Central Kitchen (WCK) charity were killed by the IDF, despite their mission being coordinated with them, and their deaths – and the subsequent outrage from the US – appear to have forced the hand of the Israeli government to allow aid through here.

It is significant because the Erez Crossing is the largest crossing point in the north and can therefore manage larger volumes of aid deliveries to northern Gaza specifically.

I asked Col. Moshe Tetro, who was coordinating and overwatching the aid crossing, how they can assure all humanitarian workers they will be safe.

Col. Moshe Tetro
Image:Col Tetro said the deaths of the aid workers was a ‘very, sorry event’

He apologised for what happened to the WCK workers and said the IDF had learnt lessons from it.

“It’s the only occasion that we had such a very, sorry event, and we are doing everything that we can in order to prevent it,” he said.

“The lessons that were learnt from what happened to WCK, those lessons were implemented.”

The colonel told journalists the plan is for the Erez Crossing to be used every day from now on, and that a Rafah offensive would not affect the movement of aid.

He also said they’d been planning it for weeks.

Nearby, Israeli soldiers guarding the pallets stare out at the ruins of Gaza – a jagged horizon of multi-storey buildings reduced to ruins, with no signs of life.

The Erez Crossing has divided these peoples, and now it is a lifeline demanded by the international community.

The US secretary of state, Antony Blinken,, on his seventh visit to the region, has two objectives.

The first is to push for an agreement on a ceasefire in Gaza and the release of Israeli hostages and Palestinian prisoners.

The second is ensuring the delivery of aid to the Strip dramatically increases.

Mr Blinken has met with the Israeli government and planned to visit Kerem Shalom – a major entry point for aid into southern Gaza.

Fear driving Rafah families north

A short distance over that border in Rafah, deadly airstrikes continue.

With all the talk of a ground offensive it’s easy to forget that the city is bombed virtually every day, killing many.

And such is the fear that Israel is about to launch a ground offensive that some families are leaving and heading back northwards.

Our Sky News Gaza team filmed families who had moved back into the ruins of their homes in Khan Younis.

Families walking through Khan Younis
Image:Families have been walking back northwards
A child walks through the rubble in Khan Younis
Image:A child walks through the rubble in Khan Younis

All of them said it was safer to go back to their destroyed homes than stay in Rafah, if a ground offensive starts.

Halima Abdullah al Tayeh, 68, went home with her husband.

Halima and her husband
Image:Halima and her husband are one of the families who’ve gone back to their ruined homes

“When we heard they were going to invade Rafah, we returned to Khan Younis to see our houses and we found them destroyed,” she said.

“We were devastated when we saw our houses, we built them with great effort and hard-won money.”

But she said it’s still a better option.

“We thought we would be better off staying here, we were afraid that they would invade Rafah and harm us, so we preferred to stay in the ruins of our houses.”

It’s all you need to know about fear that people are prepared to live in the midst of the rubble rather than risk being in Rafah when the Israeli army attacks.


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