Egypt partially reopens Rafah border crossing for 3 days

Ahram Online, MENA, Tuesday 21 Jan 2014

The Rafah border crossing, open 9am-3pm until Thursday, has witnessed frequent closures amid tightened security measures from the Egyptian side

Rafah border crossing on Egypt-Gaza border (Photo: Reuters)

Egyptian authorities partially opened Tuesday the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip for three days, state news agency MENA reported.

Until its closure on Thursday, the crossing will be open from 9am to 3pm for students, the elderly, and those seeking urgent medical attention.

The crossing, last opened 11 days ago, has witnessed frequent closures amid tightened security measures from the Egyptian side, who argue that the slow operation of the Rafah crossing is to limit any possible smuggling of weaponry into Sinai, an already troubled area with a pronounced security void.

Since the ouster of Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated president Mohamed Morsi in July, Egyptian interim authorities have maintained an uneasy relationship with Hamas -- an ideological offshoot of the Brotherhood -- which has ruled Gaza since 2007.

Hamas officials – who deny having any armed presence in Egyptian territory – have complained that Egypt has limited the number of daily passengers from 1,200 to only 300 since 3 July, when the Egyptian military dismissed Morsi following mass protests against his rule.

In retaliation to the Islamist president's ouster, near daily terrorist attacks have targeted army and police personnel in the Sinai Peninsula.

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

The absence 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 $230 million (170 million euros) in monthly losses.

The Rafah crossing was also closed at the start of Morsi's rule in early August 2012, after 15 Egyptian soldiers were killed and seven injured near the border.

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