Gaza border opens under PA control for first time in a decade

An Egyptian-brokered reconciliation deal last month formally restored Palestinian President Abbas's administrative control of Gaza.

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November 18, 2017 15:44
2 minute read.

Hamas cedes Gaza border crossings to Palestinian Authority control, November 1, 2017 (Reuters)

Hamas cedes Gaza border crossings to Palestinian Authority control, November 1, 2017 (Reuters)

 
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The Rafah crossing opened on Saturday under the administration of the Palestinian Authority and Egypt for the first time in more than a decade.

Rafah, the Gaza Strip’s sole border crossing with Egypt, is expected to remain open until Monday for the passage of students and ill people in both directions, the official PA news site Wafa reported.

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Hamas forcibly ousted the PA from Gaza in 2007 and took over the territory’s crossings.

However, Hamas and Fatah struck a deal in mid-October to restore the PA’s governing authority over the Strip, including its crossings.

On November 1, Hamas handed over Gaza’s crossings with Egypt and Israel to the PA.

On Saturday, eye witnesses said at least five buses full of passengers crossed over to the Egyptian side of the Rafah crossing.

Pictures on social media showed PA officials and cadres working inside the Rafah crossing while Hamas-appointed security forces protected it from the outside.

PA officials have said they eventually plan to deploy their security forces around the crossing.

Talks between Hamas, Fatah and other Palestinian factions are slated to take place in Cairo on Wednesday. According to several Fatah and Hamas officials, the talks are supposed to deal with the issue of security in Gaza, including at its various crossings.

Gazans hope that the PA and Egypt will open the Rafah crossing on a regular basis in order to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in the Strip.

Some two weeks ago, Fatah Central Committee member Hussein al-Sheikh said the crossing would permanently open on November 15, but it remained closed on that date.

It is not clear if a new date has been set.

“We need the Rafah crossing to open and allow for the transport of people and goods,” Maher Taba’a, the spokesman of the Gazan Chamber of Commerce, said on Wednesday. “I believe opening it on a permanent basis will have an enormous impact on Gaza’s economy.”

Gaza faces an extremely high unemployment rate of 42% and much of its infrastructure is outdated and inadequate.

Egypt seldom opens the Rafah crossing for the movement of people and goods. Prior to Saturday, the last time Egypt opened the crossing was in late August.

At its crossings with Gaza, Israel allows goods and people to pass in both directions on a daily basis, but places many restrictions on who and which goods can cross.

The IDF maintains that the restrictions are to prevent Hamas and other terrorist groups in Gaza from building weapons or carrying out attacks against Israelis.

On Saturday evening, Hamaslinked media reports said that a number of Gazan students, who want to study abroad, held a sitin outside the Rafah crossing, demanding they be allowed passage to Egypt.

Pictures on Twitter showed tens of young people standing outside the crossing.

Over the past several years, many Gazan students, with acceptances to learn at international universities, have struggled to find a way to leave the Strip to pursue their studies.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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