Egypt closes Rafah crossing

Published August 21st, 2015 - 11:00 GMT

Egyptian authorities closed the Rafah crossing with Gaza on Friday after it had been open for four days to allow emergency cases through, a Gaza official said.

Iyam al-Bazem, spokesperson for the Ministry of Interior, said that 2,579 humanitarian cases left Gaza while 3,178 people entered the coastal territory. 

Egypt prevented 146 Palestinians from leaving Gaza, he added. 

Some 17,000 Palestinians need to urgently leave the territory, either for medical treatment or to continue their studies abroad, al-Bazem said.

Egypt did not indicate when the crossing would next be opened.

The Rafah crossing, Gaza's only connection to the outside world, has been virtually closed since October 2014, allowing only a fraction of Gazans to leave or enter the blockaded enclave. 

Hamas has suffered poor relations with the Egyptian government ever since the democratically-elected Muslim Brotherhood, with whom they were closely allied, was thrown out of power in July 2013. 

The Egyptian army has destroyed hundreds of smuggling tunnels since then, which served as a crucial lifeline to the outside world for food, medicine, and materials including concrete and fuel,due to the Israeli-Egyptian blockade.

In May, the World Bank said that Gaza had the highest unemployment rate in the world, blaming the Israeli blockade as responsible for massive GDP losses and the disappearance of exports.

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