Egypt delays planned opening of Rafah crossing

Egypt was slated to open the crossing from Saturday until Monday in both directions

November 25, 2017 17:02
2 minute read.
Gazans attempting to cross into Egypt at the Rafah crossing

Gazans attempting to cross into Egypt at the Rafah crossing. (photo credit: MOHAMMED SALEM/ REUTERS)

Egypt informed the Palestinian embassy in Cairo that the planned opening of the Rafah crossing on Saturday will “be postponed” because of the security situation in the Sinai, the Palestinian embassy in the Egyptian capital said on Friday, according to the Palestinian Authority news agency Wafa.

Egypt was slated to open the crossing from Saturday until Monday in both directions.

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On Friday, a group of Sinai-based militants carried out a deadly attack on a mosque in Bir al-Abed, west of al-Arish, leaving 305 people dead and 128 people injured, according to the Egyptian state news agency MENA. The attack was the bloodiest in Egypt’s modern history.

Bir al-Abed is located some 140 kilometers from the Egyptian-Gazan border.

After militants and Egyptian soldiers clashed on October 15 in northern Sinai, leaving 24 militants and six soldiers dead, Egypt canceled a separate planned opening of the Rafah crossing.

The planned opening of the crossing on Saturday was supposed to be the second time it opened under the administration of the Palestinian Authority in more than ten years.

Hamas transferred authority over the Rafah crossing to the Western-backed and Fatah-dominated PA on November 1.

In mid-October, Hamas and Fatah signed a deal to advance reconciliation efforts and restore the PA’s governing authority over Gaza. Hamas forcibly took control of Gaza in 2007 when it ousted the PA from the territory.

On Saturday, uniformed members of the PA’s National Security Forces were photographed at the crossing for the first time since Hamas took control of it.

Fatah Central Committee Member Azzam al-Ahmad said on November 1 that Egypt and the PA agreed to permanently open the crossing in mid-November. However, on November 15, Ahmad said that Egyptian authorities postponed the permanent opening of the crossing because of “special circumstances related to Egypt.”

The PA nor Egypt has announced a new date for the permanent opening of the crossing.

Over the past several years, Egypt has largely kept the crossing closed.

If the crossing were permanently opened for the movement of people and goods, Gaza’s economy, which suffers from a high unemployment rate and severely inadequate infrastructure, would likely be positively impacted.

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 militant groups in Gaza from building weapons or carrying out attacks against Israelis.

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