Egypt pushes to break impasse over Gaza aid

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Cairo (Reuters) – Egypt said on Sunday it had stepped up diplomatic efforts to get humanitarian aid into Gaza and its president told visiting U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken that Israel’s bombardment of the territory was disproportional.

“The reaction went beyond the right to self-defence, turning into collective punishment for 2.3 million people in Gaza,” President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said of Israel’s retaliatory strikes for Hamas militants’ attacks a week ago.

Aid from several countries has been building up in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula due to a failure to reach a deal enabling its safe delivery to Gaza along with evacuations of some foreign passport holders through the Rafah crossing into Egypt.

Israeli bombardments on the Gaza side of the Rafah crossing into Egypt, the main crossing out of Gaza not controlled by Israel, have disrupted operations there.

There is alarm in Egypt over the prospect that residents in Gaza could be displaced by Israel’s siege and bombardment.

Like other Arab states, it has said Palestinians should stay on their lands and that it is working to secure delivery of aid.

A statement from Sisi’s office, issued after a meeting of the national security council, said Egypt rejected any plan to displace Palestinians “to the detriment of other countries” and that Egypt’s own security was a red line.

Sisi also proposed a summit to discuss the crisis, according to the statement.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry told CNN on Saturday that the Rafah crossing was open but the roads leading to it in Gaza were “inoperable” due to Israeli bombardment. He said that if foreign nationals were able to cross the border Egypt would facilitate their departure to their home countries.

The United States has been part of the diplomatic push to facilitate aid and evacuations through Rafah, and told its citizens in Gaza on Saturday they could move closer to the crossing in case it opened.

Eight planes laden with aid from Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Tunisia, and the World Health Organization have landed in Sinai’s Al Arish airport in recent days and a convoy of more than 100 trucks is waiting in the city awaiting permission to enter Gaza, according to the Egyptian Red Crescent.

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