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The president of Catholic Relief Services (CRS) this week said he was hoping for a quick reopening of border access to Gaza and deployment of aid to stricken civilians in the war-torn area.

CRS on Wednesday repeated its call for “an end to all violence and immediate humanitarian access to Gaza,” with the group and partner aid workers “mobilized and stand[ing] ready to meet the immediate needs of displaced families.”

CRS president and CEO Sean Callahan told CNA on Thursday that the group was waiting for aid access to the embattled region.

“I’m hopeful that President Biden is continuing to work on the different governments in the region and will get the border crossing open,” he said, adding that “we welcome a thorough vetting of supplies and all coming in.”

“But let’s get it going and let’s increase the rapidity and make sure that we can get in and take care of these people who need it desperately,” he said.

The organization’s call for relief went out Wednesday while President Joe Biden was visiting Israel in support of the war-torn Jewish state. The president also called for aid for the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip, where about a million have been displaced since the start of the conflict.

Biden told reporters on the way back from his trip to Israel that in a phone call with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the leader agreed to allow 20 trucks carrying humanitarian aid into Gaza from the restricted Rafah crossing, which connects Egypt and Gaza.

Callahan told CNA Thursday that the 20 trucks of supplies is a good start for humanitarian aid but is “a very small amount of aid compared to the need.”

There are about 3,000 tons of supplies in humanitarian aid awaiting entry to Gaza from the Egyptian side of the border, according to the U.N. 

Israel agreed to the aid being transferred to the Palestinian people as long as it goes only to civilians and not Hamas.

CRS this week said that it, along with partner organizations, is on standby in the Middle East ready to offer aid to those in need in Gaza. Some of that aid includes food, water, living supplies, shelter, and trauma counseling.

“A land, air, and sea blockade has been in place in Gaza since 2007, so emergency supplies are limited,” CRS said in its statement.

“Since Oct. 7, electricity has been cut off and no food, water, fuel, or other goods have been allowed into Gaza. People will run out of essential supplies, and in some instances already have, if humanitarian access isn’t given.”

Megan Gilbert, a spokeswoman for CRS, told CNA Thursday that none of the aid has made its way into Gaza as of Oct. 19, as the border is closed.

However, some monetary assistance has been given to those living in Gaza to buy food and resources in the local markets that are still functioning.

Gilbert said that CRS has raised $230,000 in humanitarian aid for the victims of the war. 

The present conflict began on Oct. 7 when thousands of rockets were launched by the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas from Gaza into Israel, while Hamas militants breached the border and invaded towns, killing and kidnapping Israeli civilians. Israel quickly declared war on Hamas.

The United Nations, which has called for a cease-fire, said on Tuesday that the latest reports put the amount of Israeli hostages in Gaza at approximately 200. The U.N. also said that 1,300 Israelis have been killed and more than 4,200 have been injured.

According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, 3,785 Palestinians have died in the war. That number includes more than 1,500 children and 1,000 women, according to the health ministry. Four hospitals have been forced to shut down as a result of the counter-attack, the ministry said.

President Biden announced Wednesday $100 million in humanitarian aid for the Palestinian people in both Gaza and the West Bank. 

By Joe Bukuras

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