Middle East Monitor report 10 March 2015
Thousands of Palestinians stormed the Rafah Crossing when it was opened yesterday morning. The Palestinians were in urgent need to travel either to seek medical attention, for studies, work or other reasons.
After 45 days of its continuous closure, the Egyptian authorities announced that they would reopen the crossing for two days from yesterday. More than 500 pilgrims who had visas to travel to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, in February have missed out on the opportunity to go as their visas have expired.
Rafah Crossing is the only window for about 1.8 million Gaza residents to the outside world. There are six other crossings between Gaza and Egypt, but because of the eight year Israeli siege on Gaza, the crossings have been almost entirely closed except for the entry of certain goods.
According to the records of the interior ministry in Gaza, more than 10,000 residents are registered for urgent leave. On Monday, only 361 were allowed through the crossing.
Resident Hussein Fojo, 43, said he waited for many hours in the travel lounge on the Palestinian side, hoping to leave to reunite with his family in Egypt. His attempts were unsuccessful.
“I came to Gaza four months ago for a one-month visit,” he told the Anadolu Agency. “Because of the closure, I am stuck here. I lost my job.”
Sa’diyyeh Abdul-Khaliq, an elderly lady who is in need of treatment for a liver disease, managed to get on the bus to Egypt. She said: “I hoped I could travel. I have been trying for four months. This illness cannot be treated in Gaza so I am forced to head to Egypt.”
Meanwhile another group of Egyptian soldiers have been killed and injured during an ambush in the Sinai, further escalating tensions in the area..
Hamas says attacks on Egyptian soldiers are a ploy to keep Rafah crossing closed
A senior Hamas official has condemned the latest attack on Egyptian soldiers in the Sinai Peninsula. Such attacks, claims Mousa Abu-Marzouk, are a ploy to push the Egyptians to keep the Rafah border crossing closed and damage relations between Hamas and the government in Cairo.
“The Rafah crossing was reopened after a long time and many appeals by different parties,” Abu-Marzouk wrote on his Facebook page. “After this attack, I am sure that there are some parties thinking of keeping the crossing closed and our relations with Cairo unresolved.” He called on Egypt not to fulfil the wishes of these “parties”, keep the crossing open and maintain links with the Islamic Resistance Movement in Palestine.
Earlier on Monday, the Egyptian army announced that three of its soldiers were killed and three others were wounded when their vehicle was targeted by an explosive device in Sinai. The attack took place after the authorities opened the Rafah border crossing, which has been described as the Gaza Strip’s “lifeline” to the outside world. The Palestinian authorities in Gaza said that 361 Palestinians left the territory through the crossing and 956 entered from Egypt; 37 were refused entry by the Egyptian government.
In the wake of the military coup against the elected government of President Mohamed Morsi in July 2013, the Egyptian army has kept Rafah closed and tightened the Israeli-led siege, which has been imposed on Gaza since mid-2007.
Since the coup, the Egyptian media has accused Hamas and its military wing, Al-Qassam Brigades, of carrying out attacks against targets in Egypt in an attempt to create chaos in the country. A court in Cairo declared recently that Hamas is a “terrorist organisation”; members of the movement face arrest if they try to enter Egypt.