Egypt opens Gaza crossing after month-long closure

Ahram Online , Wednesday 26 Nov 2014

Crossing with besieged Gaza Strip has been closed since 25 October attack on Egyptian army checkpoint in Sinai Peninsula

Egyptian authorities have temporarily reopened the Rafah border crossing with the Gaza Strip for the first time in almost a month, state news agency MENA said.

The crossing has been shut since 25 October when at least 31 Egyptian security forces were killed by Islamist militants in Egypt's adjoining Sinai Peninsula, in one of the deadliest accounts of violence against security forces since the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in mid-2013.

This was the longest closure since 2008, when the crossing was shut for a month from early July, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

The crossing – the only major gateway to the outside world which bypasses the Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip – will partially open on Wednesday and Thursday to allow Palestinians stranded outside the coastal enclave to return home, MENA added.

Traffic will be allowed from 12pm to 4pm on Wednesday and from 7am to 4pm on Thursday.

An estimated 1,000 patients in Gaza are waiting to leave to receive critical treatment, and an additional 1,000 patients and 15 medical staffers are stranded abroad, the UN office added.

The densely populated Palestinian territory is controlled by the Islamist group Hamas, an offshoot of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood movement, whose ties with current Egyptian authorities are strained.

Egyptian officials have accused Hamas of helping militants in Egypt who have killed hundreds of police and army personnel.

Egypt has stepped up military operations in Sinai since last month's attacks, and began demolishing houses along the border to create a security buffer zone and block arms and militant smuggling through cross-border tunnels with Gaza.

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