CAIRO — The US said on Sunday that the Egyptian-controlled border crossing into Gaza would reopen, and the United States was working with Egypt, Israel, and the United Nations to get assistance through it. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke after meeting Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo. He did not specify when the Rafah crossing into the densely populated coastal enclave, currently under intense Israeli bombardment, would reopen or how many people the United States hoped to evacuate from Gaza.
The White House has made it a priority to negotiate an opening of the crossing since Gaza began being pummeled by Israel in response to attacks last weekend by militants in the territory’s ruling Hamas movement. The US has no other way to get Americans out of the area.
Egypt has closed the two other border crossings with Israel and imposed a total siege on Gaza, which is cut off from the rest of the world and without access to adequate fuel, food, medicine, and water supplies. Blinken said the US is “putting in place with the Egyptians, with Israel and others a mechanism through which we can get the necessary materials into Gaza and also to people trapped there.”
On Saturday, the Egyptian foreign minister, Sameh Shoukry, told CNN that the government had encouraged Americans living in Gaza to move closer to the Rafah border crossing, the main exit point from Gaza not controlled by Israel, in case it opens up. The US has told its citizens in Gaza to be prepared to leave when the crossing does reopen. Still, Egypt is uneasy about hundreds of thousands of migrants trying to enter it, mainly because of an ongoing military campaign against Islamist jihadists and the resulting mass displacement in the Sinai Peninsula.
Those displaced include the Kaoud family from Riverside, California, led by Jamal and his four brothers, Hesham, Mohammad, Esam, and Nezam. Jamal, 60, has a heart condition that requires a pacemaker and defibrillator. Hesham, 24, is pregnant with her third child and fears she cannot carry another baby to term.
For them and many others, hope is growing that they can make it home soon. The Kaouds were contacted on Saturday by family members in the US who told them that they had received an alert from the Egyptian Embassy in Tel Aviv that the Rafah crossing would reopen. The Kaouds say they had no other way to know about the alert, and they have yet to be able to reach the crossing.
Jamal Kaoud hopes to travel with his brother, Hesham, who has a severe eye injury and cannot see correctly. Hesham has a medical appointment in Jerusalem on Monday to receive a new prescription for glasses. They are both worried that Israel’s upcoming ground operation in the northern part of the Gaza Strip will hinder their return trip.