Egypt to temporarily reopen Gaza crossing after ten-day closure

Ahram Online, Monday 18 Nov 2013

Rafah border crossing with Gaza Strip to temporarily reopen on Tuesday after ten-day closure due to unrest in Sinai Peninsula

Gaza Border opening
Palestinian man holds a Palestinian flag and a sign during a rally calling on the Egyptian authorities to open Rafah crossing, in the southern Gaza Strip (Photo: Reuters)

Egypt is to temporarily reopen its border crossing with the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, state news agency MENA reported.

The crossing has been closed for ten days due to renewed unrest in the Sinai Peninsula which borders the Palestinian enclave.

Cairo agreed to open the passage for three days, from Tuesday through Thursday after coordination with the Palestinian authorities.

Gaza's Islamist rulers, Hamas, were infuriated by the closure, with its spokesperson Ihab El-Ghosein saying on Sunday that the humanitarian situation in the coastal territory was worsening as a result.

Tensions have been rising between Hamas, an offshoot of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, and Egypt's interim leaders, who accuse the movement of aiding militants in Sinai since the army overthrew Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, a Hamas ally, in July.

Since then, Egypt has intermittently closed its Rafah crossing, the main gateway to the outside world for the 1.7 million Palestinians in Gaza, citing security concerns.

When open, the operating hours at the Rafah crossing are limited to four hours a day. Only authorised travelers have been permitted to cross, including foreign nationals, visa holders, and patients seeking medical treatment abroad. 

Egyptian officials have said restrictions at Rafah are linked to the situation in the Sinai Peninsula where the army has launched an offensive to flush out Islamist militants.

Egypt has also been waging a campaign to destroy a network of smuggling tunnels that supply weapons and goods to the Gaza Strip, which is partially besieged by Israel. 

The shutting down of tunnels has led to severe fuel shortages and price rises in consumer commodities in the enclave. Fuel purchased from Israel costs almost double the price of that brought in from Egypt via the tunnels. Construction has also been hit hard by restrictions on the smuggling of building materials, decimating economic growth.

According to Hamas, the closure of the tunnels has cost the nation monthly losses of $230 million (170 million euros).

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