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After record five-month closure, Egypt opens Gaza crossing for five days

12:00 Aug 18 2017 Rafah crossing

After record five-month closure, Egypt opens Gaza crossing for five days After record five-month closure, Egypt opens Gaza crossing for five days After record five-month closure, Egypt opens Gaza crossing for five days After record five-month closure, Egypt opens Gaza crossing for five days After record five-month closure, Egypt opens Gaza crossing for five days After record five-month closure, Egypt opens Gaza crossing for five days
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Palestinians wait in the Rafah border crossing terminal during a rare five-day period in which Egypt allowed passengers to pass through. There are an estimated 30,000 Palestinians on a waiting list to leave Gaza through Egypt. August 16, 2017. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90) Published by 972Mag

Palestinians wait to give their travel documents to an official at the Rafah border crossing on the Gaza-Egypt border, August 16, 2017. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90) Published by 972Mag

A Palestinian boy rests his head on his family’s suitcases as he waits to pass through the Rafah border crossing into Egypt. Most of the Palestinians leaving Gaza through Egypt do so in order to reach third-country destinations. August 16, 2017. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90) Published by 972Mag

Palestinians wait in the Rafah border crossing terminal during a rare five-day period in which Egypt allowed passengers to pass through, August 16, 2017. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90) Published by 972Mag

Hamas security forces patrol the Gaza Strip’s southern border with Egypt on August 17, 2017. A day earlier, an alleged ISIS suicide bomber killed a Hamas border guard in the area. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90) Published by 972Mag

Scene. Published by Maan News
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The five-month closure of the Rafah crossing was the longest since the blockade began in 2007, according to rights groups. The Israeli army recently added new restrictions for Palestinians hoping to leave Gaza.


By Michael Schaeffer Omer-Man for 972Mag

Egypt opened the Rafah border crossing this week for the first time in five months. Israel controls the only other way in and out of the Gaza Strip, and has placed more and more restrictions on Palestinians who want to come and go in recent months.

Egypt allowed the passage of pilgrims, humanitarian cases, and Gazans stranded in Egypt to pass through the border this week. The border closed again on Friday, after five days, according to Gaza-based Palestinian news site PalToday. There are a reported 30,000 Palestinians on a waiting list to leave the Strip via Egypt.

The five-month closure of Rafah marked the longest consecutive closure since 2007, according to Gisha, an Israeli organization that promotes Palestinian freedom of movement. Between 2011 and 2013, around 40,000 people crossed the border to and from Egypt every month, according to the rights group.

Egypt clamped down on the border following that country’s military coup which ousted President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, a political movement affiliated with Hamas, which rules over the Gaza Strip.

Israel has also vastly reduced the number of Gazans it allows to leave the besieged coastal enclave recently. According to Gisha, the number of Palestinians who exited Gaza via Israel dropped 55 percent in the first half of 2017, from a monthly average of 14,000 in the first half of 2016 to 6,302 a year later.

In addition, Israel also recently imposed new restrictions on how long Gazans can leave and what they can bring with them. Earlier this month, the Israeli army banned Palestinians leaving the Strip from bringing with them any electronic devices other than cellular phones, any food, and any toiletries. This week, The Times of Israel reported that Israel was also making Palestinians leaving Gaza sign an agreement saying that they will not return for a year.

This year marks a decade since the start of Israel’s siege on the Gaza Strip. Despite the 2006 withdrawal of settlers and ground troops, the Israeli army controls Gaza’s airspace and territorial waters, as well as all of its land crossings save for Rafah, controlled by Egypt and closed on all but the rarest of occasions. Gaza’s exports and imports are also controlled by Israel, as is the movement of people — residents and otherwise — in and out of the enclave.

The Israeli blockade, which prevents exports, economic development and importing building materials not previously approved by Israel, and which includes firing at fishermen and farmers who approach Israeli army-imposed no-go zones, has turned the Strip into what many describe as an open-aired prison.

Earlier this summer, Israel cut Gaza’s electricity supply, leaving much of the Palestinian population there without electricity for the vast majority of the day and night, and all but stopping vital services like sewage treatment and emergency medical care. A multilateral deal reached by Hamas, former Fatah official Mohammad Dahlan and Egypt is supposed to lead to an easing of Egypt’s role in the blockade next month. As part of the deal, Egypt is expected to provide Gaza with more fuel for electricity, and to allow more Palestinians to enter and exit Gaza via the Rafah crossing.
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BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Palestinian Minister of Waqf (Islamic endowment) and Religious Affairs Sheikh Yousif Ideis announced on Sunday from the city of Medina, Saudi Arabia, that the Egyptian government has agreed to allow 240 Palestinian worshipers to leave the besieged Gaza Strip next week in order to travel to Saudi Arabia to perform the Muslim hajj pilgrimage.

Official Palestinian Authority (PA)-owned Wafa news agency quoted Ideis as saying the group of pilgrims will leave the coastal enclave through the Rafah crossing with Egypt next Sunday, August 27.

Egyptian authorities closed the Rafah crossing on Friday, August 18, after a four-day opening in which an estimated 2,500 Palestinians from Gaza travelled through the crossing on their way to Saudi Arabia.

The crossing was last opened in early May, more than three months ago. The long-term closures at Rafah contradict Egyptian claims made back in March, when sources claimed that Egyptian President Abd al Fattah al-Sisi himself had ordered for Rafah to be opened twice a month in order to lessen the siege on Gaza.

Without access to the Rafah crossing, many Palestinians in Gaza depend on the Israeli-controlled Erez crossing to exit the besieged territory. However, the number of Israeli exit permits granted to Palestinians from Gaza has dropped “dramatically,” Israeli NGO Gisha noted earlier this month, with the number of permits given monthly by Israel dropping to just half the amount issued in 2016.

According to the United Nations, during 2016, the Rafah crossing was partially opened for only 44 days. In 2015, the crossing had only been open for 21 days.
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