Egypt to open Rafah crossing for 4 days in both directions


GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — Egyptian President Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi gave orders on Sunday to open the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the besieged Gaza strip for four days starting Monday until Friday, according to Egyptian state-run media.The crossing would be open in both directions to allow passage of humanitarian cases, including students, medical patients, and visa holders.Some 20,000 Palestinians inside the Gaza Strip were said to be on waiting lists managed by the Hamas-run Ministry of Interior in Gaza.Egyptian security sources told Ma’an that Egypt is considering opening the crossing twice a month regularly. Egyptian authorities were also considering the creation of a duty-free zone at the Rafah crossing, the sources added.The crossing was opened Saturday to allow entry of more than 100 Palestinian businessmen and dignitaries into the Gaza Strip after they partook in a conference in Egypt’s Ein Sokhna resort.Last month, 5,000 Palestinians, the majority of whom were students, patients, and expatriates — left Gaza en route to other countries through Egypt during seven days of opening over the course of two weeks.Egypt has upheld an Israeli military blockade on the Gaza Strip for the majority of the past three years, since the ousting of former President Muhammad Morsi in 2013 and the rise to power of President Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi in Egypt.

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 Morsi was toppled by the Egyptian army.
Due to the constraints on Palestinian movement through the crossing, many Gazans are commonly barred from leaving or entering the besieged coastal enclave, some for months at a time, as the crossing is only periodically opened by Egyptian authorities, stranding Palestinians on both sides of the crossing during closures.
In 2015, the Rafah crossing was closed for 344 days. The crossing has been reopened on a more regular basis since the beginning of 2016.
The near decade-long Israeli blockade has plunged the Gaza Strip’s more than 1.8 million Palestinians into extreme poverty and some of the highest unemployment rates in the world.
Gaza’s infrastructure has yet to recover from the devastation of three Israeli offensives over the past six years. The slow and sometimes stagnant reconstruction of the besieged coastal enclave has only been worsened by the blockade, leading the UN in September to warn that Gaza could be “uninhabitable” by 2020.
(Source / 13.11.2016)

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