Biden’s nominee for ambassador to Egypt, Herro Mustafa Garg, said in her Senate hearing Thursday morning that Egypt will open the border to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza.
“My understanding is that Egypt wants the crossing open,” Mustafa Garg said. “There is now an agreement, and we are cautiously optimistic that we will soon be seeing that flow.”
More than a week after Israel strengthened its siege on Gaza, preventing food, water, fuel, and medicine from entering the area, officials announced today that a deal was struck between Egypt, Israel, and the United Nations to allow ongoing humanitarian aid into Gaza through its border with Egypt. Israel’s siege on Gaza follows Hamas militant attacks on Israel last week that killed over 1,400 civilians and took more than 200 hostages.
“The mechanisms are being worked on all three sides, by that I mean the U.N., Israel, and Egypt.” said Mustafa Garb. President Biden announced yesterday that Egypt would allow 20 trucks of aid over the border after he met with Israeli and Egyptian officials during his visit to Israel.
The United Nations projected that nearly half of Gaza’s population of two million people had been displaced, and essential resources like clean water were dwindling under Israel’s siege of the territory.
“One of the most desperate situations right now, of all the humanitarian needs, is access to water,” said Van Hollen during the hearing. “Right now Israel has turned off the water, except for one pipe in southern Gaza. They are down to about one liter a day in rations for water, which is not enough to support human life.”
Van Hollen said given the immediate risk to people’s lives, it would be quicker for Israel to turn the water back on rather than depending on trucks to get water to the people in need.
“We haven’t seen the trucks moving yet, there is a difference between proof of concept and actual implementation, ” said Van Hollen after the hearing. “Israel should restore water to Gaza.”
In the hearing, Senator Todd Young, R-Ind., spoke about his priority to help Americans exit Gaza through the border with Egypt and Mustafa Garg agreed that it was a priority.
Mustafa Garg was nominated by Biden in March, and had served as the ambassador to Bulgaria since October 2019. Van Hollen said Republicans prevented Democrats from moving the nomination forward for several months.
“It’s one of those sad situations that until we had the recent crisis in the Middle East, we couldn’t get our Republican colleagues to move,” said Van Hollen. “I think it’s an urgent matter that we get this ambassador in place as soon as possible.”
Van Hollen did not say which Republican senators were blocking the nomination from moving forward, but other senators on the Foreign Relations Committee such as Chris Murphy, D-Conn., also expressed frustration with Republican efforts to hold up military and diplomatic nominations.
Mustafa Garg emphasized that a confirmed ambassador would allow for a greater degree of coordination as the United States, Israel, Egypt, and the United Nations work to address the ongoing humanitarian crisis.
At this critical time, neither Israel nor Egypt has an U.S. ambassador implementing U.S. policy on the ground. Biden’s nominee to Israel, Jack Lew, faced criticism from Republican Senators Wednesday in his hearing. By contrast, Mustafa Garg did not face the same criticism from Republicans on the committee, but was questioned about her priorities. Van Hollen wasn’t sure if Republicans would attempt to block Herro Mustafa Garg’s nomination or Jack Lew’s nomination on the Senate floor.