Israel allows trucks from newly reopened Erez crossing into Gaza after U.S. pressure

EREZ CROSSING, Israel (Reuters) - Israel reopened the sole crossing on the northern edge of the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, allowing aid trucks to pass through the Erez checkpoint following U.S. demands to do more to address the growing humanitarian crisis.

Reopening the Erez crossing has been one of the main pleas of international aid agencies for months, to alleviate hunger which is believed to be most severe among the hundreds of thousands of civilians in the enclave's northern sector.

The Israeli government opened the crossing point on the day of a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and called for more humanitarian aid deliveries into the territory.

The Erez crossing, primarily used for foot traffic, had remained closed since it was destroyed during the Hamas attacks on Oct. 7 that precipitated the war.

Communities on Gaza's northern edge were the first to be stormed by Israeli forces at the start of the war last year, and have been largely reduced to ruins. Aid agencies say they have faced difficulty reaching the area with food and medicine transported from other parts of Gaza across the war zone.

Israel announced it would reopen Erez last month, a few days after its forces killed a group of humanitarian workers delivering food aid in Gaza in air strikes that brought international condemnation. Israel apologised for those air strikes; Washington, its closest ally, said further support for the war would depend on improving aid access.

Colonel Moshe Tetro, head of Israel's Coordination and Liaison Administration for Gaza, said he hoped the crossing would be open every day, and help reach a target of 500 aid trucks entering Gaza daily. That would be in line with pre-war supplies entering the enclave and far more than it has received during the last seven months.

"This is only one step of the measures that we took in the last few weeks," he told reporters.

A convoy of Jordanian aid trucks heading for the Erez crossing was attacked by Israeli settlers, but managed to continue on, Jordan's foreign ministry said on Wednesday.

The U.S. special envoy for humanitarian issues warned last month the risk of famine throughout war-devastated Gaza was very high and called for more to be done to get aid into the northern part of the tiny, densely populated territory.

The United Nations has long complained of obstacles to getting aid in and distributing it throughout Gaza since Israel began an aerial and ground offensive against Gaza's ruling Islamist militant group Hamas in October.

(Reporting by Christophe Van Der Perre; Writing by Andrew MacAskill; Editing by Peter Graff)