Egypt agrees to reopen border; Biden vows aid for Gaza and Israel as protests rock region

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TEL AVIV/GAZA – Egypt agreed to reopen its border crossing with the Gaza Strip to allow aid to reach Palestinians, the United States said, as the humanitarian crisis worsened in the narrow enclave and anti-Israel protests flared across the Middle East.

The region remained volatile in the aftermath of an explosion at Gaza’s Al Ahli Arab Hospital late on Tuesday, which Palestinian officials said killed 471 people and blamed on what they said was an Israeli air strike.

Israel and the US said the cause was a failed rocket launch by anti-Israeli Palestinian Islamic Jihad militants in Gaza, which denied responsibility.

Mr Lior Haiat, spokesman for Israel’s Foreign Ministry, said on social media platform X, formerly Twitter, that at the hospital “several dozen people were apparently killed”, a much lower toll than reported by Palestinian officials.

Amid outrage over the hospital explosion, demonstrations erupted in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian West Bank, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, Tunisia and elsewhere.

Israeli forces shot dead two Palestinian teenagers in the West Bank during protests, Palestinian officials said, while Lebanese security forces fired tear gas and water cannon at protesters throwing projectiles near the US embassy, TV footage showed.

While flying home from a less than eight-hour visit to Israel, US President Joe Biden discussed aid for Gaza with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi by phone late on Wednesday.

Mr Biden told reporters that Mr Sisi agreed to open the Rafah crossing from Egypt to Gaza to allow about 20 trucks carrying humanitarian aid into the enclave, where people are desperately short of food, water, fuel and other essentials after Israel unleashed a blockade and air strikes 12 days ago.

Mr Biden did not give a timeline for the opening, but US national security spokesman John Kirby said it would occur in coming days following repairs to the road.

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