New Gaza crossing opens for aid truck inspections - Red Crescent official

Palestinian police officers walk at the commercial crossing of Kerem Shalom, as Israel ends a ban on exports from Gaza, in Rafah

ISMAILIA, Egypt (Reuters) - A convoy of 80 aid trucks for Gaza was sent from Egypt to the Kerem Shalom crossing for checks on Tuesday after a new inspection system was opened in an effort to accelerate deliveries of relief, a Red Crescent official said.

Since aid deliveries began on Oct. 20, supplies entering Gaza from Egypt have had to loop south from Rafah to be inspected at the Al-Awja-Nitzana crossing on Egypt's border with Israel, a process that has caused bottlenecks and delays.

The use of Kerem Shalom, which is on the border between Israel, Gaza and Egypt about 3 km (1.86 miles) from Rafah, should allow for the processing of more trucks, including some that would come from Jordan for the first time since the start of the war in Gaza, aid officials say.

As the humanitarian situation grows more desperate in Gaza, the United Nations has been pushing for Israel to allow trucks to enter the enclave directly from Kerem Shalom, saying this would make a bigger difference.

Israel, which fears supplies could benefit Hamas, has so far refused such a move, diplomats say.

The trucks sent to Kerem Shalom on Tuesday included medicines, medical supplies, food, drinking water, and baby formula, said Khaled Zayed, head of the North Sinai branch of the Red Crescent.

A further 100 trucks were sent to the Al-Awja-Nitzana crossing, Zayed said.

Since a truce collapsed on Dec. 1 the number of aid trucks entering Gaza daily has dropped to about 100. Prior to the war, about 500 trucks entered the territory daily, about 60% of them passing through Kerem Shalom, according to the U.N.

Distribution of aid within Gaza has been hampered by a lack of trucks and fuel, telecoms blackouts, and Israel's military operation.

(Reporting by Yusri Mohamed; Writing by Aidan Lewis and Alistair Bell)