Egypt collects donations for Gaza

Unclear how or when aid will be delivered since it is meant to be sent through Kerem Shalom, closed by Israel.

lots of money 88 (photo credit: )
lots of money 88
(photo credit: )
The Egyptian Foreign Ministry announced this week that it was accepting donations and humanitarian aid by any state or donor body for delivery to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. However, it was unclear Wednesday how or when the aid will be delivered since it is meant to be sent through the Kerem Shalom crossing, which Israel has closed for the last eight days for security reasons. Humanitarian deliveries from Egypt to Gaza are coordinated with Israel's Defense Ministry and are dependent on the security situation, Israeli officials said. "The crossings would have to be open, meaning no firing of rockets, mortars, or anything else we've had fired at us today," Defense Ministry spokesman Peter Lerner said Wednesday. The six-month cease-fire between Israel and Hamas that was brokered by Egypt expired officially last Friday. More than 60 rockets and mortar shells were fired at Ashkelon and the Western Negev on Wednesday, causing structural damage but no serious injuries. Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit has informed all the foreign missions accredited in Cairo of its planned delivery, which will be coordinated with the Egyptian Red Crescent Society, an Egyptian Foreign Ministry press release issued on Tuesday said. Egypt said it is collecting aid and donations for the people of Gaza to "carry out its responsibilities to stand alongside the Palestinian people and support them in a humanitarian way," the statement said. The Kerem Shalom crossing was scheduled to open Wednesday, but the decision was reversed after a barrage of rockets was fired into Israel Tuesday night, Lerner said. He described the current situation as "extremely sensitive." It was not immediately clear why Egypt was not planning to send the aid through its Rafah border crossing with Gaza. Israeli defense officials noted there are currently no arrangements in place to operate the crossing there. Rafah crossing operations were defined in an agreement between the Palestinian Authority, Israel and Egypt in 2005 after Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, but two of the signatories to that agreement - Israel and the PA - are no longer in Gaza and "from a legal point of view, the crossing cannot operate," Lerner said. However, Egypt, from time to time, has allowed sick people or religious pilgrims to enter and exit from Rafah, he said. Some government officials have also speculated that Egypt prefers to avoid dealing officially with Hamas, which has controlled the Gaza Strip since its June, 2007 takeover. Meanwhile, international aid and relief organizations continued to warn of a deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza. Israel and Egypt imposed a blockade on Gaza after Hamas seized power last year. UNRWA suspended its emergency food program to 750,000 refugees in Gaza last week due to irregular border access. In addition, there are shortages of more than 100 essential pharmaceuticals and critical emergency surgical kits, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Egypt has been the target of increasing criticism for its role in the blockade. On Monday, Egyptian Deputy Foreign Minister Abdel-Rahman Salah summoned the Syrian ambassador to express concern about anti-Egypt demonstrations that took place this week in Syria. AP contributed to this report.