Rafah border crossing 'partially' reopens after 4-day closure

Ahram Online, Monday 12 Aug 2013

Egyptian authorities reportedly reopen the lifeline border from Gaza to Egypt with restricted hours and setting strict qualifications for who can cross

Egyptian Army soldiers guard the Rafah crossing gates(Photo: Reuters)

Egyptian authorities partially open on Monday the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the Gaza strip, after being completely closed for the four days of Eid Al-Fitr holiday, Ahram Arabic news site reports.

The crossing has started partially operating for holders of residence permits, foreign passports and medical referrals approved by Palestinain health ministry to access Gaza, according to a statement released by Hamas's interior ministry Monday.

Egypt has reinforced security at the Rafah crossing after increased militant attacks in the Sinai Peninsula following the overthrow of Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi on 3 July.

The Hamas interior ministry statement details that Egyptian authorities will work under the Ramadan schedule (11am to 3pm) and will only allow a maximum of 200 people to enter, as opposed to the usual one thousand.

Hamas's interior ministry also called on Egyptian authorities in the statement to reopen the crossing completely.

Hamas has denied any relation to the militant attacks in the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula, as declared by some Egyptian figures.

"We're sorry for such statements that attempt to falsely convince the Egyptian people that the enemy is Hamas, and not Israel," the statement added.

Warning of a possible humanitarian crisis in the Gaza strip caused by the "closure of the Rafah crossing," Hamas' foreign ministry called for Egypt to open the crossing at the start of August.

The statement described the crossing as "Gaza's only gate to the world after the Israeli occupation blocked all other entry points."

Palestinians have also used illegal tunnels between Egypt and the Gaza strip to smuggle goods into Gaza.

Army spokesman Ahmed Ali released a statement Wednesday announcing that 102 tunnels between Egypt and the Gaza Strip have been destroyed. The tunnels, according to the statement, were used as an entry point by "terrorists," as well as for smuggling weapons, drugs and cars, among others things.

The UN released a statement late July claiming that the army's crackdown closed 80 percent of Gaza's tunnels, many of which have been used to smuggle basic necessities into Gaza, leaving the UN concerned "that already difficult economic and humanitarian conditions in Gaza will further deteriorate."

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