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Arab Leaders Criticize as Trucks Full of Aid Wait at Border Crossing

This satellite image shows aid trucks waiting on the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing on Oct. 20, 2023. (Satellite image ©2023 Maxar Technologies via AP)
This satellite image shows aid trucks waiting on the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing on Oct. 20, 2023. (Satellite image ©2023 Maxar Technologies via AP)

As Arab leaders condemned Israel and the international community on Friday, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged Israel, Hamas and Egypt to allow aid trucks to enter Gaza as quickly as possible amid yet another delay that appeared to have postponed aid deliveries at least one more day.

Arab media showed video of Egyptian bulldozers working to repair the road, damaged by Israeli airstrikes, on the Gaza side of its Rafah border crossing. It was not clear when the repairs would be completed, but an agreement to allow 20 aid trucks to enter Gaza Friday between U.S. President Joe Biden and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi appeared to be on hold for at least another day.

Guterres, who traveled to Rafah to observe the latest developments, told a crowd gathered along the border that the aid trucks should be allowed to enter Gaza quickly.

"We are witnessing a paradox,” he said. “We have 2 million people … suffering enormously, that have no water, no food, no medicine, no fuel. [They] are under fire … [and] need everything to survive.

“On [the Egyptian] side, we have seen so many trucks loaded with water, with fuel, with medicine, with food — exactly the same things that are needed on [the Gaza] side of the wall."

Reaction from Arab leaders

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, speaking at a joint meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council and ASEAN in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, urged both sides in the Gaza conflict to "stop targeting civilians" amid reports of further civilian casualties, including families who were taking refuge at a Gaza church.

He said he opposed the targeting of civilians in any way and called for the cessation of attacks on the infrastructure civilians depend on for their daily existence.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian told journalists after attending a conference of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, that the "entire Middle East is a powder keg waiting to explode." He criticized foreign states and leaders who, he claimed, "remain silent as civilians are targeted by Israeli attacks."

Algeria's justice minister, Abderrachid Tabi, told journalists that his country "is following the serious developments [in Palestinian territory] as a result of the dramatic attacks on Gaza that have resulted in the deaths of hundreds and the wounding of many others."

Protests in Arab capitals

Meanwhile, protests in many Arab capitals denounced Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip and the delay in delivering aid to civilians.

Several hundred protesters chanted slogans in favor of Gaza and Palestinians alongside Friday prayers at Cairo's al-Azhar Mosque. Arab media also showed protests at prayers in Beirut, Lebanon; Damascus, Syria; Amman, Jordan; Baghdad, Iraq, and Algiers, Algeria.

Demonstrators carrying Palestinian flags later marched through Cairo's iconic Tahrir Square.

A small crowd of Egyptian aid workers and members of nongovernmental organizations waiting at Rafah for permission to enter Gaza protested the ongoing closure of the border crossing. Supplies of aid from Egypt and other international donors remain piled up at Egypt's Al Arish airport, awaiting the green light to go to Gaza.

Egypt is preparing to hold a conference of Arab and international states Saturday to discuss implementing a cease-fire in Gaza and the need to find a long-term solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.