Egypt reopens Rafah border crossing with Gaza Strip

Reuters, Saturday 24 Aug 2013

Rafah crossing in North Sinai reopens after four days of closure, though Sinai continues to witness unrest

Egypt reopened its Rafah border crossing with the Gaza Strip Saturday after four days of closure, allowing stranded passengers to cross in and out of the Palestinian territory controlled by the Islamist Hamas group.

Hamas, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, has ruled Gaza since 2007 and has an uneasy relationship with Egypt's new leadership following the ouster by the army of elected Islamist president Mohamed Mursi — a Hamas ally — last month.

Thousands of Palestinians, including students and patients seeking medical treatment, have been unable to travel to Egypt since Rafah crossing was shut, while hundreds wanting to return home were stranded outside the Gaza Strip.

Israel cites security concerns and allows only a small number of Gazans through its land crossing with the Strip, mainly for medical treatment, making Rafah the only gateway to the outside world for most of the enclave's 1.7 million people.

Maher Abu Sabha, the Hamas-appointed director of the Palestinian side of the crossing, said Egyptian authorities were opening Rafah for only a few hours a day. He said travellers needing medical care abroad and others with time constraints would get priority.

Hamas officials have complained that Egypt has limited the number of passengers from 1,200 a day to only 300 since 3 July, when the Egyptian military dismissed Morsi following mass protests against his rule.

Egyptian officials have accused Hamas of aiding Muslim Brotherhood members break from prison during the 2011 January uprising and say the slow operation of Rafah crossing is linked to poor security conditions in Sinai, where Egypt is fighting radical Islamist militants.

Last week, militants killed 25 Egyptian soldiers in the desert territory.

Hamas leaders deny they have any armed presence in Egyptian territory.

Short link: