Egypt to open Rafah border crossing for four days

Egypt to open Rafah border crossing for four days
Egypt is set to open the Rafah border crossing, which links the Israeli-blockaded Gaza Strip with Sinai, in both directions for four days to allow the passage of humanitarian cases.
2 min read
01 June, 2016

Rafah crossing

Egyptian authorities will temporarily open the Rafah border crossing with the Israeli-blockaded Gaza Strip, the Palestinian embassy in Egypt has said.

The crossing will open in both directions for four days starting Wednesday to allow the passage of humanitarian cases and residency holders between Gaza and Egypt.

The move is seen as a goodwill gesture ahead of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which starts next week.

Hamas, which rules the coastal strip, says more than 15,000 Gazans have applied to leave the coastal enclave, but only a few hundred can cross per day.

The Rafah border crossing, which links Egypt with Gaza, is the main entry and exit point for 1.8 million Palestinians who live under Israeli siege to enter and exit the Strip.

It has been mostly closed since October 2014, when a militant attack in North Sinai left over 30 Egyptian security personnel dead.

It was last opened in May for two days, marking the second time in 2016. The first lasted three days in mid-February.

The Egyptian military has destroyed the underground tunnels leading in and out of Gaza as one of several counter-terrorism measures adopted by the state.

Egypt sees the tunnels as a pathway for arms and militants, forming a direct threat to the country's security.

Hamas has accused Egypt of adding to the siege of Gaza by destroying the tunnels which have long been used to transport people and much-needed goods in and out of the enclave.

"Blockades, war and poor governance have strangled Gaza's economy and the unemployment rate is now the highest in the world," the World Bank said in a report last year, adding that the enclave's economy was on the "verge of collapse." 

The difficult living conditions in the enclave were worsened after destruction caused by a 51-day Israeli attack in a 2014 summer offensive, which killed more than 2,251 Palestinians and 73 Israelis, the majority of whom were soldiers, according to the United Nations.

Cairo-Hamas ties have been strained since 2013, when Egypt’s military ousted former president Mohamed Morsi following mass protests. The Palestinian movement was a strong ally of Morsi's regime.

Agencies contributed to this report