International

Hundreds of Palestinians Cross Into Gaza As Egypt Opens Crossing

Hundreds of Palestinians Cross Into Gaza As Egypt Opens Crossing

Palestinian passengers wait to leave Rafah crossing between Egypt and southern Gaza Strip after the crossing's closure
Palestinian passengers wait to leave Rafah crossing between Egypt and southern Gaza Strip

Hundreds of Palestinians have crossed into Gaza during the past two days as Egypt opened its Rafah border crossing, prompting the state to open the crossing for a third day.

Egyptian authorities announced late Wednesday that the border crossing will be opened for an extra day on Thursday, reported the state news agency MENA.

Authorities had announced earlier this week that the crossing, which connects Egypt’s Sinai to the Palestinian Gaza, will be opened in one direction, from Egypt to Gaza on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Nearly 800 Palestinians crossed into Gaza from Egypt and other countries on Wednesday, bringing the number of those who crossed so far to 1355, MENA reported.

Authorities also allowed 1290 tonnes of building material into the strip on Wednesday, to be used for rehabilitation projects in Gaza, MENA reported.

Five hundred and sixty-four Palestinians had crossed into Gaza on Tuesday, alongside 1087 tonnes of building material, MENA reported.

The densely populated Gaza strip is home to 1.8 million people and is currently recovering from destruction caused by 50 days of Israeli military operations in the summer of last year, which have left more than “96,000 homes … damaged or destroyed,” according to an assessment in December 2014 by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.

In October 2014, Egypt and Norway co-hosted an international donors conference on the reconstruction of the Strip in Cairo, raising around 5.4 billion dollars in donations.

The majority of the donations were, however, stalled.

Gaza has been under siege since 2007, when resistance movement Hamas seized control of the strip. The siege makes the border crossing vital for Gazans and is currently the strip’s main exit and entry point.

The Rafah crossing has been closed since October 2014, “except intermittently on 12 days, on which it was partially opened,” United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a weekly report issued earlier this month.

The shutdown of the crossing came one day after militant attacks left over 30 security personnel dead, in one of the deadliest militant operations in Egypt since a wave of insurgency rose in Egypt in mid-2013.

Last week, a top counselor at the Palestinian embassy said the opening of the border crossing is “connected to the stability of the security situation in Sinai,” in a statement posted on the embassy’s website.

He stressed the “necessity” of solving the “Rafah crisis” urgently, based on political solutions.

A study by OCHA last December described the situation in Gaza as being “further compounded by the restriction imposed since 2013 by the Egyptian authorities at Rafah crossing.”

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Aswat Masriya is a Thomson Reuters Foundation-sponsored website that covers Egypt's transition to democracy. en.aswatmasriya.com

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