Egyptian authorities allowed 162 Palestinians to pass through the Rafah border crossing, in both ways, on Wednesday and Thursday, according to the state-owned MENA news agency.
Egypt announced the crossing would remain open for two days on Wednesday for the first time in 104 days, in what was to be an “exceptional” case. Egyptian authorities infrequently opened the border one-way only, for Palestinians wishing to cross from Egypt into Gaza.
The 36 Palestinans wishing to travel abroad, after crossing from Gaza, were accompanied by a representative of the Palestinian embassy in Egypt and Egyptian security personnel. Those who crossed from Egypt to Gaza did so shortly after their arrival at the Cairo airport.
To be able to exit, Gaza residents must meet Egypt’s criteria, which includes only medical patients with a referral, students, and others who have foreign residency or are holders of foreign passports.
According to the Gisha Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, Rafah was closed for a total of 306 days throughout the course of 2015. The only other way outside of Gaza is through the Erez crossing, which is controlled by Israel.
When the Rafah border was open more regularly, before 2013, monthly averages of 40,816 crossings were recorded.
The Rafah crossing has been closed-off since October 24th 2014, after a military attack in Northern Sinai killed over 30 military conscripts. Before this incident, the crossing was also primarily closed, and opened on rare occasions for pilgrims, students, and other exceptional medical cases.
In September, the UN predicted that the besieged Strip, which has survived three Israeli bombardments over the past five years, is likely to become “uninhabitable” for residents within five more years. In the same month, Egyptian military forces began flooding tunnels between Gaza and Egypt.
The tunnels are often the only source from which Gaza residents can recieve essential goods, as both the Egyptian and Israeli controlled crossings are closed.
Egyptian authorities claim that the tunnels are a pathway for arms and criminals, and are a national threat to Egypt.
Gaza is home to 1.8 million Palestinians, one of the highest population densities in the world, and is widely called the “world’s largest open air prison” due to a decade of Israeli blockade, backed by Egypt.