Blinken urges Egypt to ensure aid is flowing into Gaza

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken visits Jordan

By Simon Lewis, Humeyra Pamuk and Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday urged Egypt to do everything it can to make sure humanitarian aid is flowing into Gaza as food and medicine bound for the strip piles up on the Egyptian side.

Blinken told a hearing in the House of Representatives that the Rafah crossing in southern Gaza remained closed after Israel's military seized it on May 7.

Fighting near the crossing has made providing assistance challenging, but aid could still be getting through, Blinken said, an apparent reference to the Kerem Shalom crossing near Rafah where some deliveries have continued.

"So we need to find a way to make sure that the assistance that would go through Rafah can get through safely, but we do strongly urge our Egyptian partners to do everything that they can on their end of things to make sure that assistance is flowing," Blinken said.

Israel is retaliating against Hamas in Gaza - an enclave of 2.3 million people - over a brutal Oct. 7 attack by the Palestinian militants. Aid access into southern Gaza has been disrupted since Israel stepped up military operations in Rafah, a move that the U.N. says has forced 900,000 people to flee and has raised tensions with Egypt.

Egyptian security sources said Egypt cannot bring aid in through Rafah as this would mean an acceptance of the Israeli military's presence at the crossing, which Egypt opposes.

For Egypt to agree to operations restarting at Rafah, a Palestinian presence was needed on the Gazan side of the crossing, Egypt's state information service said on Wednesday in a statement refuting a CNN report about Egypt's role in Gaza ceasefire talks.

Egypt's foreign minister said on Monday that the Israeli military presence and combat operations put truck drivers in danger.

Israel's strategic affairs minister, Ron Dermer, told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" the hold-up was Egypt's fault.

"Right now, Egypt is withholding 2,000 trucks of humanitarian assistance from going into Gaza because they have a political issue about the Rafah crossing," Dermer said.

(Reporting by Simon Lewis, Humeyra Pamuk and Patricia Zengerle in Washington; additional reporting by Ahmed Mohamed Hassan and Aidan Lewis; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Matthew Lewis and Diane Craft)