Egypt opens Rafah crossing for Ramadan
Egypt has opened the Rafah border crossing with Gaza for the entire Muslim holy month of Ramadan, President Abdel-Fatah el-Sissi announced on Twitter, in what would be the longest uninterrupted period of time since 2013.
The move is meant as a humanitarian gesture during the annual holiday, one of the few occasions in which Egypt allows some Gazans stranded by a 2007 Egypt-Israel blockade to leave and return to the territory ruled by the militant Islamic group Hamas.
The announcement late on May 17 came just days after Israeli forces shot and killed 59 Palestinians and injured more than 2,700 during mass protests along the Gaza border. El-Sissi wrote on his official Twitter account that the opening would “alleviate the burdens of the brothers in the Gaza Strip.”
Hamas’ leader Ismail Haniyeh said on May 18 that the opening of Rafah was the result of talks with Egyptian officials in a visit to Cairo on May 13.
“We are witnessing the outcome through steps Egypt has taken and we hope they continue, develop and increase,” he said at a Friday prayer sermon in Gaza City.
Trucks carry aid
The crossing has been open since May 12 so el-Sissi’s announcement is technically an extension and Egyptian authorities said 510 people crossed on Wednesday, the majority coming from Gaza into Egypt.
On May 17, 541 people crossed from Egypt into Gaza along with dozens of trucks carrying cement, steel, power engines and medical and food aid from the Red Crescent, the officials said.
Last month, Hamas’ Interior Ministry said more than 20,000 people were on exit waiting lists. Through this week, an average of 500 travelers a day moved through the border, mostly leaving.