Egypt opens Rafah crossing Monday for three days

Ahram Online , Monday 6 Mar 2017

File Photo:of Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza. (Photo: Reuters)

Egypt opened the Rafah border crossing with Palestine's Gaza strip on Monday for three days, state news agency MENA reported.

Based on the directives of President Abdel-Fatah El-Sisi, the crossing will be open in both directions to allow humanitarian cases and students to cross, as well as to “allow the passage of humanitarian assistance to the Gaza strip.”

The Rafah border crossing between Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula is the only way for 1.8 million Palestinians, who have been living under Israeli siege since 2006, to enter and exit the strip.

The crossing has been mostly closed by Egyptian authorities since October 2014 on security grounds.

Cairo periodically opens the border for short periods to allow civilians with foreign passports, Palestinian students, and those with medical needs to travel back and forth.

The crossing was last opened in mid-February for humanitarian cases and students.

It was also opened as an exception for some Palestinian social and political figures, as well as youth, to enter Egypt to take part in a conference at Ain El-Sokhna Saturday, in Suez governorate.

The two-day conference, which around 170 Palestinians attended, focused on Egypt and the Palestinian cause as well as the unification of the Palestinian factions.

The border opening comes amid signaled improvement between Cairo and the Palestinian movement Hamas, which rose to power in Gaza in 2006, with the group's leader Mahmoud El-Zahar saying Palestinian and Egyptian officials have reached a border control agreement.

No further details have been released on the deal, which was discussed during the visit of a Hamas senior delegation to Cairo in late January.

Relations between Cairo and the Palestinian Islamist group grew strained following the ouster of Egypt's Islamist ex-president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013, amid waves of popular outcry against his rule.

Cairo has repeatedly accused Hamas of backing Egypt's banned Muslim Brotherhood organisation and smuggling through illegal tunnels in the Gaza-Sinai border. 

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