Gaza-Egypt crossing reopens for 3 days for special cases

AFP, Saturday 29 Mar 2014

Gaza rulers Hamas have described the closure of Rafah Crossing as a 'crime against humanity'

A Palestinian girl rests as others hoping to cross into Egypt wait at the Rafah crossing between Egypt and the southern Gaza Strip (Photo: Reuters)

The Gaza Strip's land border with Egypt reopened Saturday after a 50-day closure, but only for three days and restricted to special cases, the Islamist Hamas movement said.

Passage to Egypt will be limited to those seeking medical treatment, students going to their places of study, foreigners, and in cases deemed as humanitarian, Gaza's interior ministry said.

A busload of Palestinians heading for Egypt was the first vehicle through the crossing in the city of Rafah, which is also open to traffic in the opposite direction.

Egypt has severely restricted access through the crossing since July 2013, when Islamist president Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood was ousted amid mass protests against his one year rule.

Hamas is the Palestinian offshoot of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood.

On Tuesday, Filippo Grandi, head of the UN Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA urged Egypt to let people through Rafah, saying only a handful of Muslim pilgrims had been allowed across over seven weeks.

He also called on Israel to ease its blockade of the Strip, imposed in 2006. The only other crossing for people out of Gaza is at Erez, which leads to Israel.

Many Gazans travel through Rafah to seek medical treatment outside of the impoverished Strip.

After Morsi's overthrow, the Egyptian army destroyed hundreds of tunnels under the border that brought in construction materials and fuel. That caused the Strip's worst ever energy crisis, with power outages of up to 16 hours a day.

This month, Hamas described the Rafah closure as a "crime against humanity," and the UN criticised it for its effect on "the civilian population, including patients awaiting medical treatment."

This story was edited by Ahram Online. 

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