Palestinians wait to cross to the Egyptian side of Rafah border crossing after months of closure due to the coronavirus pandemic in the southern Gaza Strip, on August 11, 2020. AFP
Egypt reopened on Tuesday its border crossing with the Gaza Strip in both directions for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began, allowing Palestinian to leave the Israeli-besieged strip and those stranded abroad to return home.
Two-way traffic through the Rafah crossing into the coastal enclave will be allowed for three days – through Thursday, the Palestinian embassy in Cairo had said.
Gaza residents holding Egyptian passports, foreign passports and patients seeking emergency medical care abroad will be allowed to leave the crossing, the Hamas-run interior ministry in Gaza said.
All returnees will be put into mandatory 21-day quarantine and will have their luggage and possessions impounded for three days as part of precautionary measures against the virus, the ministry said.
Authorities has prepared isolation facilities to accommodate the returnees.
Rafah was shut in March as part of efforts by the Hamas-run authorities to rein in the spread of the coronavirus in the densely-populated enclave. The passenger crossing was opened in mid-April for three days - but only in one direction - for Palestinians stranded outside Gaza to return home.
Dozens of police officers dressed in personal protective equipment as well as medical staff waited at the border crossing in the southern enclave early Tuesday.
Gaza has reported 81 cases of the coronavirus, including only one death so far.
The Rafah border crossing is the main gateway to the outside world for around 2 million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip, and is the only crossing point not controlled by Israel.
Egypt has occasionally opened Rafah to allow the passage of students and medical patients, as well as those with foreign passports.
Also on Tuesday, Israel closed its only commercial crossing with Gaza after Palestinians launched fire-starting balloons into Israel.