Gaza’s Rafah border crossing with Egypt opens for first of five days

Published June 29th, 2016 - 11:30 GMT
Palestinians residing in the Gaza Strip wait for travel permits to cross into Egypt through the Rafah border crossing in the southern Palestinian coastal enclave after it was open for five days by Egyptian authorities, on June 29, 2016. (AFP/Said Khatib)
Palestinians residing in the Gaza Strip wait for travel permits to cross into Egypt through the Rafah border crossing in the southern Palestinian coastal enclave after it was open for five days by Egyptian authorities, on June 29, 2016. (AFP/Said Khatib)

Egypt opened its border crossing with the Gaza Strip on Wednesday morning in order to allow Gazans in urgent need to enter and exit the besieged Palestinian enclave.

The terminal is set to remain open for five days in the coming week, not including Friday.

The short break in heavy border restrictions comes as Israel's military blockade of the Gaza Strip approaches nearly a decade. Gaza's 1.8 million residents continue to struggle to meet their basic needs due to severe constraints on goods coming in and out.

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 democratically-elected president Mohamed Morsi was toppled by the Egyptian army in 2013.

The 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 the Palestinian territory, allegations Hamas has denied.

However, the Rafah crossing has been reopened on a more regular basis in 2016. The Egyptian government opened the Rafah crossing for four days during the first week of June ahead of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, during which time more than 3,000 people left the Gaza Strip.

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

While the tunnels are reportedly 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.


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