CAIRO, EGYPT — Egypt is preparing to treat wounded Palestinians from the bombarded Gaza Strip starting Wednesday, with the opening of a border crossing to people after weeks of war, medical and security sources said.
The border authority in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip said that Egypt had agreed to let in 81 of the most badly wounded on Wednesday through Rafah, the only crossing not controlled by Israel.
An AFP photographer on Tuesday saw a large number of ambulances gathered at Rafah.
It comes amid unrelenting Israeli bombardment of the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, with the health ministry in the besieged Palestinian territory saying more than 8,500 people have been killed, including over 3,500 children.
The strikes come in response to a 7 October attack in which Hamas militants infiltrated into southern Israel, killing 1,400 people, the majority civilians, according to Israeli officials.
“Medical teams will be present tomorrow (Wednesday) at the crossing to examine the cases coming (from Gaza) as soon as they arrive… and determine the hospitals they will be sent to,” a medical official in Egypt’s city of El Arish told AFP.
A security source at the Rafah crossing confirmed the information, which was earlier reported by the state-affiliated Al-Qahera news channel.
The medical official added that a field hospital with an area of 1,300 square metres (about 14,000 square feet) would be built to receive the wounded Palestinians in the city of Sheikh Zuweid in northern Sinai, about 15 kilometres (nine miles) from Rafah.
The United States voiced hope that hundreds of Palestinian-Americans stuck in Gaza would be able to leave through Rafah.
“We do think we’ve made very good progress on this in just the past few hours,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller told reporters in Washington.
“We would hope that any agreement to get any individuals out would also unlock the possibility of American citizens or their families and other foreign nationals coming out,” he said.
He said that the United States would inform US citizens in Gaza to head to Rafah “as soon as we have actionable information.”
US officials had earlier reported a deal with Egypt on the crossing and accused Hamas of not letting people through.
Miller said that Secretary of State Antony Blinken raised the Rafah issue in telephone talks with leaders of Qatar, where Hamas has an office.
Foreign governments say that people from 44 countries and 28 agencies, including UN bodies, are living in the Gaza Strip, where 2.4 million people have been living through bombardment without water or electricity and with little food after Israel tightened its 16-year blockade further in response to the Hamas attacks.
Israeli National Security Council chief Tzachi Hanegbi told reporters that Israel was speaking with Egypt about the injured.
But he made clear that there was still a dispute on aid deliveries, with Egypt seeking to let more trucks into Gaza but Israel saying it was limited to searching dozens of vehicles per day.
The United States, which has backed Israel but pressed for greater humanitarian considerations, has voiced hope that 100 trucks per day could go through Rafah.
The decision to open the crossing came hours after an Israeli strike on the largest refugee camp in Gaza, where the health ministry has said at least 50 people were killed.
Egypt on Tuesday condemned the strike on Jabalia camp “in the strongest terms”, warning against “the consequences of the continuation of these indiscriminate attacks that target defenceless civilians” in a foreign ministry statement.
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