Egypt opens Rafah border crossing, letting hundreds of Gazans out

Published October 17th, 2016 - 09:00 GMT
783 Gazans were able to leave the coastal enclave via the Rafah border since it opened Saturday morning. (AFP/File)
783 Gazans were able to leave the coastal enclave via the Rafah border since it opened Saturday morning. (AFP/File)

Egyptian authorities opened the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the besieged Gaza Strip on Sunday for a second consecutive day, according to the Palestinian Authority's (PA) General Administration of Crossings and Borders.

Egypt had opened the crossing going both directions on Saturday for humanitarian cases and “stranded people.”

The PA said in a statement Sunday that 783 Gazans were able to leave the coastal enclave via the crossing since it opened Saturday morning.

Among those who traveled Saturday were 11 patients who were transported in ambulances for medical treatment abroad.

The statement added that Egyptian authorities notified the PA that the border crossing would be closed on Monday and Tuesday, and subsequently reopened Wednesday through Saturday.

The head of the media office of the Rafah crossing, Wael Abu Omar, said that the crossing was closed on Sunday after seven buses traveled to Egypt. 

The crossings committee of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Gaza has published the names of Palestinians allowed to travel through the crossing on Wednesday and Thursday.

Egypt has upheld an Israeli military blockade on the Gaza Strip for the majority of the past three years, since the ousting of former President Muhammad Morsi in 2013 and the rise to power of President Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi in Egypt. 

While the Egyptian border has remained the main lifeline for Gazans to the outside world, Egyptian authorities have slowly sealed off movement through the border since Morsi was toppled by the Egyptian army. 

Due to the constraints on Palestinian movement through the crossing, many Gazans are commonly barred from leaving or entering the besieged coastal enclave, some for months at a time, as the crossing is only periodically opened by Egyptian authorities, stranding Palestinians on both sides of the crossing during closures.
In 2015, the Rafah crossing was closed for 344 days. The crossing has been reopened on a more regular basis since the beginning of 2016.
The near decade-long Israeli blockade has plunged the Gaza Strip’s more than 1.8 million Palestinians into extreme poverty, and some of the highest unemployment rates in the world.
Gaza's infrastructure has yet to recover from the devastation of three Israeli offensives over the past six years. The slow and sometimes stagnant reconstruction of the besieged coastal enclave has only been worsened by the blockade, leading the UN in September to warn that Gaza could be “uninhabitable” by 2020.

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