Egypt logistics zone to ease aid delivery to Gaza

The new zone aims to reduce the burden on aid truck drivers who wait for days on end for Israeli permission to enter Gaza

Aid trucks are lined up next to a large cement fence near the border with Gaza, which Egypt says will be a 'logistics zone' to receive aid for Gaza.
Aid trucks are lined up next to a large cement fence near the border with Gaza, which Egypt says will be a 'logistics zone' to receive aid for Gaza.

Egypt logistics zone to ease aid delivery to Gaza

Egypt's construction of a logistical zone in Sinai near the border with the Gaza Strip is 60% complete. The zone is divided into four sections and will store Egyptian humanitarian aid and another for aid from other countries in the North Sinai city of al-Arish.

Its construction comes as the humanitarian situation in Gaza has reached catastrophic levels, with Israel letting only a drop of aid in compared to the needs of the people.

It also comes as Israel says it is planning to invade Rafah, where close to 1.4 million Palestinians currently live, after having been told by Israel to evacuate from northern and central Gaza.

Leaders around the world have warned against invasion, saying that it will sure to lead to a humanitarian disaster that the city's remaining healthcare facilities will not be able to bear.

The construction of the zone also comes as Egypt rallies international support behind the need for maintaining a steady flow of aid to the war-torn Palestinian territory and works to ramp up the amount of aid entering it.

Egypt has been working tooth and nail to keep the aid lifeline to Gaza functional, despite obstacles placed by Israel, to prevent an exodus of hungry and thirsty Palestinians into the Egyptian side of the border.

Displaced Palestinians, who fled their houses due to Israeli strikes, sit outside a tent at the border with Egypt amid fears of an Israeli ground assault in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip February 18, 2024.

Read more: Egypt weighs its options as Gaza refugee surge becomes real possibility

Daunting mission

Apart from the warehouses that will be used for the storage of humanitarian aid destined for Gaza, the zone, which is being built by the Egyptian army, will also contain parking lots for the trucks that carry this aid into the Palestinian territory, as well as accommodation for their drivers and loaders.

The new zone is expected to house thousands of tonnes of humanitarian aid, including medical supplies and medicines before they are sent to Gaza to cater to the growing needs of the population of the coastal enclave of 2.4 million.

Egypt has been finding it challenging to enter sufficient amounts of aid into Gaza since the beginning of the Israeli onslaught on the strip on 7 October.

Before the current war, as many as 600 trucks used to enter Gaza from Sinai every day through the Karem Abu Salem crossing on the border between Egypt, Gaza and Israel, carrying food, medicines, medical supplies, and construction materials.

Now, however, only a fraction of this number of trucks enters Gaza, with Israel putting limits to the entry of aid into the territory.

By using starvation as a weapon, Israel says it wants to tighten the noose around Hamas and other Palestinian factions operating in Gaza, but this has driven the civilian population to the brink of famine.

Read more: Starvation as a weapon of war: An all too familiar horror in history

Before the current war, as many as 600 trucks used to enter Gaza from Sinai every day. Now, Israel only allows a fraction of this aid to get in.

In pictures: Palestinians desperately hunt down food and water in Gaza as Israel heavily restricts aid delivery

The construction of the new logistical zone shows just how daunting the challenge of getting aid has become.

"Israeli authorities invent a new excuse every day to reject aid shipments and prevent them from entering Gaza," Dr Khaled Zayed, the Egyptian Red Crescent chief in North Sinai, told Al Majalla.

"Israel has the final say in what can and cannot enter Gaza," he added.

He said the Israelis bar a large number of items from entering Gaza, primarily what is known as 'dual use' items. These items include – among many other things – oxygen cylinders, metal cookware and wooden poles used in setting up tents.

"The presence of the new logistical zone will coordinate the aid hoped to be delivered to the people of Gaza and reduce pressures on the drivers delivering this aid," Zayed said.

Endless wait

Al Majalla spoke to Egyptian drivers on the journey from al-Arish Airport to Rafah crossing, on the border between Sinai and the Gaza Strip, during a visit to North Sinai in late November, almost 52 days after the start of the Israeli operation in Gaza.

This was during a temporary cessation of fire between Gaza's factions, on the one hand, and Israel, on the other, a time of hope for the people working in aid delivery on the Egyptian side of the border.

Aid trucks are lined up next to a large cement fence near the border with Gaza, which Egypt says will be a 'logistics zone' to receive aid for Gaza.

These drivers were determined to deliver critical food and medical aid to Palestinians in dire need.

Along the road from al-Arish Airport, around 50 kilometres away, hundreds of trucks carrying aid were parked in the open. Drivers and loaders braved the unpredictable weather conditions of Sinai's desert and waited impatiently for their turn to move on the road to the crossing — a moment that seemed never to come.

Sultan Abdelrahman, one of the drivers, said he had been waiting three days for permission to start moving on the road to the crossing.

"It's quite boring, but I can't do anything about it," he said.

Ayman Naguib, another driver, was busy fixing a stove he used in preparing lunch — an indispensable tool in the middle of the Sinai desert, given the loads of time he spent waiting to enter Gaza.

As soon as they cross the Egyptian border on the road to Gaza, aid trucks have to travel around 50 kilometres into Israel for inspection by Israeli officials before they are allowed to enter Gaza — a process that slows down the aid delivery and exacerbates humanitarian conditions in the besieged territory.

Read more: Exclusive: Israel plans to re-open Karni crossing into Gaza amid growing concerns for Palestinians in Rafah

Israeli authorities invent a new excuse every day to reject aid shipments and prevent them from entering Gaza.

Khaled Zayed, Egyptian Red Crescent chief in North Sinai


The new logistical zone near the border with Gaza will spare the aid truck drivers and loaders the long wait on the road before they cross into Gaza.

It will contain accommodation for the drivers and the loaders who will get their aid shipments from its warehouses before they start their journey across the Egyptian border.

Since the beginning of the Israeli operation on Gaza, aid has been trickling into al-Arish, which has become a major logistical hub by air, land and sea.

The zone was mistaken in the past few days by some media outlets for a potential camp for refugees from Gaza, with Israel getting ready for the invasion of Rafah, which overflows with people who have already.  

The root of the mistake can be traced in a 14 February statement by a local rights group, in which it claimed that the Egyptian army prepared a gated area in Sinai for the reception of refugees from Gaza.

Some Western media outlets said they had received satellite images proving Egypt's construction of such an area — a claim Egypt explicitly rejected. 

Workers build a large cement fence near the border with Gaza, which Egypt says will be a 'logistics zone' to receive aid for Gaza.

No to expulsion

Egypt has expressed its firm position against the expulsion of Palestinians from Gaza into the Sinai several times in the past few days, lashing out at the planned Israeli invasion of Rafah. It says that Israel is trying to push out as many Palestinians as possible.

Speaking at the Munich Security Conference on 17 February, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said the expected invasion of Rafah constituted a threat to Egypt's national security.

The same day, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi told French President Emmanuel Macron on the phone that he would not allow the expulsion of Palestinians from Gaza.

The planned Israeli invasion of Gaza puts Egypt under immense pressure. It is scrambling to devise plans to deal with the repercussions of multiple scenarios.

If the worst-case scenario unfolds and Palestinians are forced across the border, Shoukry vowed to treat them humanely.

With every passing day, the humanitarian situation in Gaza worsens, making a mass exodus of refugees increasingly possible.

"An Israeli invasion of Rafah will undoubtedly lead to Palestinians charging the border into Egypt," Safieddin Kharboush, a member of the Committee on Arab Affairs in the Egyptian parliament, told Al Majalla.

"No one can prevent Egypt from taking the measures it sees fit to protect its borders and preserve its sovereignty," he added.

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