Egypt to close border with Gaza during Eid

Ahram Online , Monday 14 Oct 2013

Egyptian authorities to close Rafah border crossing with Palestinian Gaza Strip from Monday until Friday amid continued crackdown on Islamist militants in Sinai Peninsula

Rafah border
Palestinian security and police officers block the entrance of Rafah border crossing during a protest calling on Egypt to reopen the border in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, Monday, Sept. 16, 2013. (Photo: AP)

Egypt will close its border crossing with the Palestinian Gaza Strip for five days during the Muslim festival of Eid Al-Adha, state news agency MENA reported on Sunday.

The Rafah crossing is the only gateway to the world for 1.7 million Palestinians living in the coastal enclave that is governed by Islamist group Hamas, a close ally of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood.

The border will be closed from Monday until Friday, and will re-open on Saturday.

Egyptian authorities gave no specific reasons for the closure, but it has been closed intermittently since Mohamed Morsi's ouster on 3 July as the Egyptian army battles Islamist militants in the Sinai Peninsula, some of whom allegedly enter the region via the Gaza Strip

The operating hours have been limited to four hours per day, six days per week – down from nine hours daily, according to a UN report.

Only authorised travellers – including foreign nationals, visa holders and medical patients  – are allowed to cross the border, leaving hundreds of Gazans stranded on both sides.

Palestinians in the impoverished enclave have also been reeling from an Egyptian crackdown on an extensive network of underground tunnels through which fuel and goods are smuggled to bypass the Israeli blockade and tight border restrictions imposed by Egypt.

The crackdown, which has seen more than a 700 tunnels destroyed by Egyptian security forces since January 2013, has led to a severe fuel crisis in the territory. Fuel purchased from Israel costs almost double the price of that brought in from Egypt via the tunnels.

Construction in Gaza has also been hit hard by restrictions on the smuggling of building materials, damaging economic growth.

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