Egypt says Gaza crossing open next week, big changes likely

24 Aug

Press TV, 22 August 2012. Ashraf Shannon reports from Gaza.


by Grant Morgan

editor of

24 August 2012

Momentous changes are unfolding in Egypt’s relations with Gaza which look likely to benefit all Palestinians and undermine Israel’s dispossession of the land’s indigenous people “between the river and the sea”.

According to Ashraf Shannon’s latest report from Gaza, the territory’s officials expect the Rafah border crossing with Egypt to be fully operational next week. That follows three weeks of closures and partial reopenings in the wake of a nearby Sinai attack where 16 Egyptian policemen were killed on 5 August.

“Gaza prime minister Ismail Haniya was promised by Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi that he will lift the blockade and ease the restrictions at the Rafah crossing,” said Maher Abu Sabha, manager of Rafah, on 22 August. “We were told by Egyptian officials that the Rafah crossing would likely be in full operation next week.”

A day later, however, another senior crossing official in Gaza, Ayoub Abu Shaar, said Rafah would open for three days a week, starting next week. “Egyptian authorities informed us that the crossing will be re-opened both ways on Saturdays, Mondays and Wednesdays,” he stated

So, at the time of writing, it’s unclear whether Rafah will be opened every day each week, or only three days. Regardless, next week appears to promise a real step forward in re-opening Gaza to the world.

Palestinians in Gaza point to betterments in their lives since the June election of Egypt’s first democratic president. As a consequence, there are high expectations that conditions will continue to improve now that the era of military dictatorship in Egypt seems to be over, with Cairo moving away from being an enforcer of Israel’s blockade on Gaza.

“Health, transportation, electricity and other aspects of life in Gaza have been improving ever since Morsi’s election,” reports Shannon. He notes that Gaza’s Hamas government has also been calling on Egypt to open the Rafah crossing for “commercial goods”, in effect creating a free trade zone.

Ghazi Hamad, Gaza’s deputy minister of foreign affairs, has said a free trade zone might soon “liberate Gaza”. 

For Hamas to even appeal for Rafah to become a free crossing for goods as well as people, Haniya and his fellow ministers must be confident that their call will be heeded by Morsi’s new administration. At the same time, Gaza’s government will know that the Sinai attack is unlikely to be the last speed bump on the road to ending Israel’s cruel and criminal blockade of the territory’s 1.7 million Palestinians.

Even so, it does seem that Cairo is heading towards making Rafah a free crossing, which would mean the effective ending of the siege of Gaza, and thus an epic reversal for Israel’s strategy of writing Palestinians out of the history of Palestine.

It may be that the road to Gaza’s liberation from Tel Aviv’s control lies through Cairo, and in turn, the road to Palestine’s liberation from Zionist occupation lies through Gaza.

So what can international supporters of Palestine do to help pave the way towards the unfettered opening of Egypt’s border with Gaza? That seems to be a vital question now needing to be discussed among Palestinian sympathisers around the world.

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