Aid shipments to southern Gaza may resume Friday night, Egyptian security sources say

By Adam Makary

CAIRO (Reuters) - Humanitarian food and fuel shipments may start coming into southern Gaza via Israel's Kerem Shalom crossing as early as Friday evening, Egyptian security sources said, following an agreement reached between the presidents of Egypt and the United States.

Egypt was coordinating with Israel on the aid, the sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

U.S. President Joe Biden and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi earlier on Friday agreed to temporarily send aid to the United Nations in Gaza via the crossing in southern Israel near the Egyptian border, Egypt's presidency said in a statement.

"This will help save lives," the White House said in a statement.

The shipments will pass through Kerem Shalom until legal mechanisms are in place to reopen the nearby Rafah border crossing from the Palestinian territory's side, the Egyptian presidency said. The crossing connects southern Gaza with Egypt.

Biden welcomed Egypt's commitment to allow the aid into Gaza, and told Sisi during a phone call he supported efforts to reopen the Rafah crossing under terms acceptable to both Egypt and Israel, the White House said in a statement. The U.S. will send a senior team to Cairo next week for talks.

The Palestinian Presidency, which rules the Israeli-occupied West Bank, also agreed to the joint decision following consultations with Egyptian officials, the Palestinian Presidency said in a statement.

The Egyptian presidency said the agreement resulted from "the difficult humanitarian situation of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, the lack of means of life in the Strip, and the lack of fuel needed for hospitals and bakeries."

"Fuel supplies in Gaza remain very low," the official Palestinian news agency WAFA reported late on Friday. Without a continued supply of fuel to Al-Aqsa Hospital in central Gaza, the lives of 20 newborns receiving oxygen will be at risk, WAFA said.

On Monday, Egypt warned against Israel's continued military operations in Rafah, which were preventing aid deliveries to the impoverished enclave of 2.3 million people.

Much of the aid delivered into Gaza since the conflict between Israel and Hamas began in October has come through Egypt, entering through the Rafah or Kerem Shalom crossings.

According to the Egyptian sources, Sisi also told Biden that Egypt continued to reject coordination with Israel on the Rafah border crossing and the two leaders discussed the post-war management of the border.

Egypt said it was committed to sending aid through Rafah, but only until a mechanism can be established that is agreed on by the Palestinian Authority, Egypt's state-affiliated Al Qahera news TV said on Friday, citing a senior source.

Since May 5, just before Israeli forces took control of the Rafah crossing from the Palestinian side, no trucks have crossed through Rafah and very few through Kerem Shalom, according to U.N. data.

Sisi and Biden also agreed to intensify international efforts to make Gaza ceasefire talks a success and end the "prolonged human tragedy experienced by the Palestinian people," the Egyptian presidency's statement added.

(Reporting by Mohamed Hindawy and Ahmed Mohamed Hassan; additional reporting by Doina Chiacu and Michelle Nichols writing by Adam Makary, Yomna Ehab, and Nafisa Eltahir; editing by Jonathan Oatis)