Netanyahu accuses Egypt of holding Gaza ‘hostage’ in crossing row

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday pressed Egypt to reopen the Rafah border crossing, suggesting Cairo was holding the people of Gaza “hostage” by not working with Israel on the key aid gateway.

His remarks come a day after Egypt — the first Arab country to make peace with Israel, and host of ceasefire and hostage talks that have broken down — angrily accused Israel of denying responsibility for the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

The Rafah crossing — which borders Egypt and has been the main gateway for goods and people entering Gaza — has been closed since Israel on May 7 said it had seized it from Hamas.

Israel has vowed to eradicate the Palestinian militant group following the its massive October 7 attack.

Egypt has refused to coordinate with Israel on the Rafah crossing, concerned that the takeover is part of Netanyahu’s defiant push to launch an offensive inside the city of Rafah.

More than one million displaced Palestinians have sought shelter in the city.

In an interview with US financial news network CNBC, Netanyahu said that Israel supported “maximum humanitarian aid flows” through Rafah.

“We want to see it open,” he said, adding: “I hope we can come to understanding” with Egypt.

Netanyahu said the crossing would have been open “yesterday” if it were up to Israel.

“I mean, that’s not our problem. We’re not holding up the opening of Rafah,” he said.

“I hope Egypt considers what I’m saying now,” he said. “Nobody should hold the Palestinian population hostage in any way and I’m not holding them hostage. I don’t think anyone should.”

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said Tuesday that Israeli control of the crossing exposed aid workers and truck drivers to “imminent dangers.”

He said that Israel was “solely responsible for the humanitarian catastrophe” in Gaza, where the United Nations has warned of risks of famine.

The United States, Israel’s top ally, has warned against a Rafah offensive and appealed for the reopening of the crossing.

Dan Dieckhaus, a senior official with the US Agency for International Development, said the United States was making its case on the Rafah crossing in talks with regional governments.

“The needs in Gaza are so immense that we cannot afford for any crossings to go offline,” he told reporters.

“We are pressing all parties to come to some sort of arrangement that can more immediately open Rafah and see assistance coming from Egypt.”

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