Doha and Cairo have been in close contact since the onset of the latest war on Gaza.
Doha News is onboard the first Qatari aid flight for Gaza which departed the Gulf state on Monday en route Egypt’s El Arish International Airport in Sinai.
A Qatari foreign ministry statement said the move was a “directive of His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the Amir of the country”.
The statement confirmed that the flight is carrying 37 tonnes of medical aid provided by the Qatar Fund for Development (QFFD).
The aid comes under “Qatar’s support for the brotherly Palestinian people, and its full support for them during the difficult humanitarian conditions resulting from the Israeli bombing that the Gaza Strip is being subjected to.”
The flight is delivering vital aid supplies for the besieged Gaza Strip as it faces a humanitarian catastrophe caused by the Israeli bombardment of the city. Within 10 days, Israeli occupation forces (IOF) have killed at least 2,808 Palestinians, including at least 800 children, and wounding more than 11,000 others.
However, the figure is expected to rise amid the ongoing bombardment, with more than 1,000 bodies believed to be trapped under the rubble.
The difficulty of sending urgent aid to Gaza comes as the enclave faces a complete Israeli siege that has prevented millions from accessing water, electricity and food. Many grocery stores have been targeted by the IOF or forced to shut down after running out of supplies.
Cairo, which shares diplomatic ties with Tel Aviv, and Doha—the host of Hamas’ political office—have been at the forefront of de-escalation efforts in Gaza since the onset of the latest events.
The Gulf state has also been in close contact with key international partners— namely the US, the United Kingdom, Iran, Turkiye, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, among others—in an effort to explore an end to the escalations in Gaza.
Last week, Egypt called on potential donors to deliver aid to the airport in El Arish, where other aid flights had landed. The supplies are then expected to be delivered to authorities in Gaza via the Rafah Border crossing.
While initial reports on Monday had pointed to a potential ceasefire in Gaza following an alleged agreement between Egypt and Israel, both sides have since dismissed the claims.
A day earlier, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said his country initially sought to keep the Rafah crossing open, but Israel had prevented it from its side. The shared crossing between Gaza and Egypt is the only way in and out of the Palestinian city that is not controlled by Israel.
However, the IOF forced the crossing to shut down last week following attacks on the facility.
Egyptian media had reported on Saturday that Cairo had denied the United States’ request to open the Rafah crossing for foreign nationals only without enabling the safe passage of humanitarian aid to Gaza.
Egyptian media on Saturday reported that Cairo had denied a request by the United States to open the Rafah crossing for foreign nationals only without enabling the safe passage of humanitarian aid to Gaza.
Egyptian sources privy to the matter told Cairo News that the country had placed the entry of aid as a condition to allowing foreigners, including Americans, to exit Gaza.
“The Egyptian stance is clear, it requires the aid to arrive in Gaza,” the report said.
The Egyptian refusal came after reported talks between the US, Qatar, and Israel to open the Rafah crossing to allow for much-needed aid to enter Gaza as it faces a complete blockade by the occupying state.
“We have been trying to facilitate access for it to be open from 12 to five today. The Egyptians, the Israelis and the Qataris have been working with us on that,” a US State Department official told reporters on Saturday, as quoted by Reuters.
The Washington official was addressing reporters travelling with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken as part of the regional tour that started off in Tel Aviv on Thursday, followed by Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt.
During the joint presser between Qatar’s Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani and Blinken Doha, the two diplomats said they have been working closely to establish a safe humanitarian corridor.
“What we can see in Gaza Strip and shortage of basic needs, no electricity – because of the bombardment,” the Qatari foreign minister said, describing the situation on the ground in the Strip as “a disaster”.
However, Blinken claimed efforts to get humanitarian aid into Gaza “are complicated by the fact that Hamas continues to use innocent civilians as human shields”.
Mounting fears over ground invasion
Meanwhile on Sunday, the Israeli military announced plans for a full-scale ground invasion of Gaza.
Israeli tanks were seen positioning themselves along the Gaza border in what has been described as the “largest pull-up of Israeli reservists in Israel’s history.”
“We also saw Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu talking to troops and telling them the next phase was about to begin. Some leaks in Israeli media also say ground invasion is going to begin. It is now only a question of time before that happens,” Al Jazeera journalist Stefanie Dekker reported from the ground.