Egypt Opens Rafah Crossing in Both Directions

Sustained closures have caused much suffering among Palestinians. (Johnny Barber, PC, file)

The Egyptian authorities opened the Rafah crossing in both directions on Saturday, and is expected to keep the crossing open for the next three days, ministry says.

The Gaza Ministry of Interior announced the opening, noting that is was the first time the crossing was opened since Egyptian authorities had allowed Palestinians stuck in Egypt to return to Gaza last month, opening Rafah for one day in one direction.

Some 15,000 Gazans registered at the Ministry of Interior are currently waiting to travel via Rafah, including 3,000 patients and more than 2,500 students.

The number registered is a fraction of the 1.8 million residents who have remained under the Israeli-imposed blockade since 2007 and struggle to meet their basic needs due to restrictions on goods coming in and out of the strip.

Saturday’s much-needed opening comes as Egyptian authorities have done little to alleviate Israel’s blockade on the Gaza Strip, keeping the Rafah crossing — Gaza’s only connection to the outside world — virtually sealed since October 2014.

Sustained closures rose amid accusations by Egyptian authorities that Hamas was backing militants who have carried out deadly attacks on security forces in the Sinai Peninsula that borders strip, allegations Hamas has denied.

Also in efforts to prevent attacks, the Egyptian army says it has destroyed hundreds of tunnels used for smuggling supplies and arms between Sinai and Gaza, and also used by militants to infiltrate into Egyptian territory.

While the tunnels are used by Hamas as a source of tax revenue and inflow of weapons, they also supply highly-demanded necessities for Gazans including food, medicine, as well as infrastructure materials including concrete and fuel.

Egypt is also working on a buffer zone between the Gaza Strip where thousands of Palestinians along the border have been evacuated from their homes to make way for the no-go area of land.

In light of what has been termed by rights organizations as a humanitarian crisis, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov welcomed Egypt’s decision to open the crossing, and encouraged that control of Gaza’s border crossings be returned to the Palestinian Authority.

(Ma’an – www.maannews.net)

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