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Israel Reopens Gaza Crossing of Kerem Shalom for Humanitarian Aid

The Israeli army said on Wednesday it had reopened the Kerem Shalom crossing, crucial for the delivery of humanitarian aid into Gaza. 

The crossing was closed on Sunday after a Hamas rocket attack near the crossing killed four Israeli soldiers. 

However, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees said that no aid has yet reached the Palestinian side and there is no one to receive it. 

The US last week halted arms shipments to Israel over concerns that Israel was about to launch a large-scale attack on Rafah.

The US has said it is concerned about the fate of about 1.3 million Palestinians trapped in Rafah, most of whom came from elsewhere. Israel says Rafah is Hamas's last stronghold and a broader attack there is needed to destroy the group's military and governance capabilities. 

Meanwhile, the US, Egypt and Qatar are stepping up efforts for a possible agreement on a temporary ceasefire and the release of several Israeli hostages still held by Hamas.

Associated Press' journalists heard sounds of explosions and gunfire in the area throughout the night. This also included two explosions that occurred on Wednesday morning. Rafah has been an important channel for humanitarian aid since the beginning of the war and is the only area through which people can enter and leave Gaza. Israel is in control of all Gaza border crossings for the first time since the withdrawal of troops from the area nearly two decades ago. Gaza's health ministry said at least 46 patients and wounded seeking medical treatment were trapped.

UN agencies and aid groups have stepped up humanitarian aid in recent weeks as Israel, under pressure from its closest ally the US, lifted some restrictions and opened an additional crossing in the north. But aid workers say the closure of Rafah, the only entry point for fuel trucks and generators, could have serious consequences. 

The United Nations has said that northern Gaza is already in a state of 'complete famine'. It appears that the operation to capture the crossing was a limited offensive and not the major offensive on Rafah that Israel had promised. But Israel has said it will expand its operation if there is no progress in direct talks with Hamas regarding a ceasefire and the release of hostages.