Egypt to open Gaza border crossing for three days

Ahram Online , Sunday 18 Jan 2015

The move comes in response to a request from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during his visit to Egypt last week

Rafah border
Palestinians perform Friday prayers at the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and southern Gaza Strip January 16, 2015, to demand that Egyptian authorities open the crossing (Photo: Reuters)

Egypt will temporarily open its Rafah border crossing with the Gaza Strip for three days starting Tuesday — the first time the crossing has opened in 2015.

The border was last opened 21 December for three days.

The move comes in response a request from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during his visit to Egypt last week, according to a statement by the Palestinian embassy in Cairo.

The temporary opening of the crossing also comes in the wake of a request Thursday by the UN Security Council to open the crossing.

The Security Council's briefing on the Middle East encouraged Egyptian authorities "to re-open the Rafah crossing while taking into account Egypt’s legitimate security concerns."

The report cited "humanitarian concerns" as reasons to open the crossing, relative to "around 17,000 registered people, including patients, waiting to exit Gaza, in addition to 37,000 others who wish to exit Gaza."

Gaza, which has been ruled by Islamist group Hamas  since winning the legislative elections in 2006, has been under Israeli siege since 2007.

Egypt has tightened its grip on the Rafah border crossing for the past year and a half amid a spike in a decade-long Islamist militant insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula.

Security has been especially tightened at the crossing since 24 October 2014, when a deadly car bomb attack claimed the lives of 31 army personnel and injured at least 30 others.

Egyptian officials have accused Hamas of helping militants in Egypt, who have killed hundreds of police and army personnel. Hamas has denied the allegations.

Egypt stepped up military operations in Sinai since the October attack, demolishing houses along the border to create a security buffer and block arms and militant smuggling through cross-border tunnels with Gaza.

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