Egypt-brokered deal could help boost aid access to Gaza

Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, with assistance from the U.S. government, brokered a cease-fire agreement between Israel and Hamas. Photo by: © European Union / CC BY-NC-ND

Israel and Hamas have agreed to a cease-fire agreement that reportedly includes the opening of crossings to allow the transfer of goods and movement of people to and from the Gaza Strip.

The deal was brokered by Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi with assistance from the U.S. government. It was announced Nov. 21 by Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohammed Kamel Amr and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Cairo, Egypt. It took effect on the same day, 9 p.m. Cairo time.

The United Nations, other countries and development and humanitarian organizations welcomed the cease-fire and have praised Morsi’s efforts to help forge the deal. But the welcome comes with an appeal: Both parties must uphold the agreement.

The European Union and Australia, among others, also called for action beyond the cease-fire, particularly the continuation of negotiations toward achieving a two-state solution in the region.

“The European Union remains determined to continue working to assist in achieving this goal,” European Council President Herman van Rompuy added in a statement.

Oxfam International, meanwhile, pressed action on a related issue: the end of Israel’s blockade on Gaza.

“We need more than a ceasefire,” Martin Hartberg, Oxfam policy officer in Jerusalem said. “Only by lifting the blockade, do we have any chance of ending the incessant cycle of violence that has devastated millions of lives.”

The cease-fire, with its clause on passage and freedom of movement, could bring some relief to aid groups that have had difficulties accessing Gaza. The break in fighting also allows them a window to actually deliver aid.

Access into Gaza, where medical supplies and other basic items are running low, has proved a challenge over the past few days when Israel and Hamas were exchanging hostilities.

“Four trucks with [World Food Program] food stocks attempted to enter via the Karem Shalom crossing, but had to turn back due to rocket fire,” the U.N. food relief agency said Nov. 21 regarding one of the crossings on the Gaza Strip-Israel-Egypt border.

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    Ivy Mungcal

    As senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributes to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.