Hamas authorities are aiding thousands of Palestinians who want to leave Gaza via the Rafah crossing to Egypt, but “movement is very slow,” a senior official said on Wednesday.
“The crossing is open for eight hours per day, but the actual working hours are only four, during which people can move to the Egyptian side. The Egyptian side leaves the gates open in order for those who are not given access [to Sinai] to return [to Gaza],” Maher Abu Sabha, the director of Gaza’s Department of Crossings, told the London-based Asharq al-Awsat newspaper.
Abu Sabha said his department is running on an emergency basis to facilitate the transfer out of Gaza of critical medical cases. He said, however, that even though the crossing is open, “it is akin to being closed.”
“Movement is very slow,” Abu Sabha said.
Everything depends on the cease-fire talks taking place in Cairo, he added.
Tasnim Muqayyed, one of the Palestinians waiting for a permit to leave the Gaza Strip, told Asharq al-Awsat that she wants to reunite with her husband in Sweden after coming for a visit four months ago to see her parents.
Egypt’s Foreign Ministry has said the border with Gaza at Rafah remains open, despite media reports claiming it is closed with exceptions for humanitarian or aid transfers.
“Since Israeli attacks commenced, Egypt has been adamant in keeping the Rafah crossing open continuously and exceptionally to allow for the passage of people and humanitarian aid convoys and to receive the wounded,” the ministry said, Ahram Online reported on Sunday.
Some 7,500 people, as well as more than 1,200 tons of medical aid and food, have passed through the Rafah crossing, it said, adding that accusations Egypt is keeping the border closed are “in complete contradiction to facts on the ground.”
“Egypt cannot open it for free passage for men and merchandise, because it is a security hazard,” former ambassador to Cairo Zvi Mazel, a fellow at The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and a contributor to this newspaper, told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.