Rafah border crossing to remain open for two more days

Egypt opened the Gaza border on Saturday after Hamas handed control of the crossing over to the Palestinian Authority.

    Gaza's Rafah border crossing with Egypt will remain open for two more days as part of a reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas.

    Egypt opened its largely sealed border with Gaza on Saturday for what was initially planned to be three days, but that time period was extended by another two days on Monday.

    The opening came after Hamas gave the Palestinian Authority control over the crossing for the first time since 2007.

    The Egypt-brokered deal is expected to lead to more regular openings of the Rafah crossing.

    The Palestinian interior ministry said about 30,000 Palestinians in Gaza have applied for entry to Egypt in the past few months.

    Egypt's border with the Gaza Strip had been sealed since August, and was largely closed for years before that.

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    So far this year, the border has been open on 14 days, according to the Hamas-run interior ministry in Gaza.

    Under the terms of the reconciliation agreement reached last month, Gaza's Hamas rulers are supposed to cede civil power to the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority (PA) by December 1.

    As a first step, they handed over control of its border crossings on November 1.

    Mufeed al-Husayneh, Gaza's minister of public works and housing, said that the Saturday opening was "the first work of the government of national reconciliation taking over its functions at the Rafah crossing".

    "The unity government is ready to carry its responsibilities and roles," he said.

    The head of the PA's security services, Majid Faraj, held talks with senior Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar in Gaza on Friday.

    All Palestinian factions are due to meet in Cairo soon to discuss ways to move the reconciliation deal forward.

    Both Israel and Egypt have maintained blockades of Gaza for years, arguing that they are necessary to isolate Hamas.

    Impacted by the suffocating blockade, three Israeli assaults, and punitive measures from the PA aimed at forcing Hamas to cede control, Gaza has been in a downward spiral, worsening an already dire humanitarian and economic situation.

    The small enclave is one of the most densely populated areas in the world and has been described as "the world's largest open-air prison".

    About 42 percent of Palestinians in Gaza suffer from poverty, while youth unemployment stands at 58 percent and some 80 percent rely on international aid, mainly for food, according to the World Bank.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies


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