Gazans attempting to cross into Egypt at the Rafah crossing.
(photo credit: MOHAMMED SALEM/ REUTERS)
Despite Palestinian officials saying the Rafah crossing would be permanently opened on Wednesday, the crucial passageway between the Gaza Strip and Egypt remained closed.
Top Fatah and Palestinian Authority officials said two weeks ago that Egypt and the PA agreed to permanently open the Rafah crossing on November 15.
However, on Wednesday, Fatah Central Committee member Azzam al-Ahmad said the opening of the crossing was postponed due to “special circumstances related to Egypt,” without elaborating.
Egypt has previously canceled planned openings of the Rafah crossing, citing the unstable security situation in Sinai.
Ahmad added that the Palestinians and Egypt talked about setting a new date to open the crossing, but did not state specifically which date or dates the two parties discussed.
“We communicated during the past two days with the Egyptian side to determine another date to open the crossing,” Ahmad said in a statement, published on the official PA news site Wafa.
“Egypt is very keen on doing everything that is needed to help us alleviate our people’s suffering in Gaza.”
The failure to open the crossing, as announced, came approximately a month after Egypt brokered a deal between Hamas and Fatah to advance reconciliation efforts and restore the PA’s governing authority in Gaza.
On November 1, as a part of the Egyptian-mediated agreement, Hamas handed over Gaza’s border crossings to the PA, which Hamas had controlled since forcibly ousting the PA from the Strip more than a decade ago.
Over the past several years, Egypt has seldom opened the Rafah crossing for the movement of people and goods.
Maher Taba’a, the spokesman of the Gazan Chamber of Commerce, said that he was “disappointed” that the crossing did not open on Wednesday.
“This is not a good indication,” Taba’a said in a phone call. “We are very disappointed that it was not opened today.”
According to Taba’a, if the Rafah crossing were to be opened for the movement of goods and people on a regular basis, it would “have an enormous impact on Gaza’s economy.”
Israel also controls crossings with Gaza. While Israel allows goods and people to cross daily, it places many restrictions on who and which goods can cross.
The IDF holds that its restrictions are to prevent Hamas and other terrorist groups in Gaza from building weapons or carrying out attacks against Israelis.
Ahmad, a resident of Gaza City, also expressed frustration that the crossing was not opened on Wednesday.
“For some reason, I thought it would finally be opened,” he said. “I should have known better.”