Egypt opens Rafah crossing as 30,000 Gazans wait

Published May 11th, 2016 - 04:00 GMT
Vehicles drive through the Rafah border crossing point in the southern Gaza Strip on 19 September 2013. (AFP/File)
Vehicles drive through the Rafah border crossing point in the southern Gaza Strip on 19 September 2013. (AFP/File)

Egyptian authorities reopened the Rafah crossing at the border with besieged Gaza Strip on Wednesday morning after 85 days of closure, for a two-day period which Gaza officials have said is insufficient to address the needs of people in the blockaded Palestinian territory.

The Gaza crossing and border authority confirmed that the Rafah terminal would operate in both directions on Wednesday and Thursday, adding that people from across the Gaza Strip had started to gather in the southern city of Khan Yunis near Rafah ahead of the opening.

Passengers were being checked in at Khan Yunis' Abu Yousif al-Najjar sports center and sent in buses to Rafah in order to avoid overcrowding at the crossing's passenger hall.

Egyptian authorities requested that the first two buses carry holders of Egyptian passports, after which priority should be given to passengers who had been waiting for their turn the last time the crossing was opened, in February.

The Gaza Ministry of Interior said that the two-day opening was too short to process the more than 30,000 passengers waiting for their turn, including humanitarian cases, students who attend schools abroad, patients in need of treatment outside of Gaza, and visa holders who live and work abroad.

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

The nearly nine-year Israeli blockade has plunged the Gaza Strip's more than 1.8 million Palestinians into poverty. The destruction from three Israeli offensives over the past six years and slow reconstruction due to the blockade led the UN in September to warn that Gaza could be "uninhabitable" by 2020.

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