Rafah crossing provides hope to exit Gaza

Palestinians try to escape Israeli shelling, but exit is limited to the severely wounded and Egyptian passport holders.

Gaza’s interior ministry said only 11 wounded made it through Rafah crossing Thursday [Wissam Nassar/Al Jazeera]

Rafah border crossing, Gaza-Egypt border – For many Palestinians living under heavy Israeli bombardment, Egypt’s limited opening of the Rafah crossing with Gaza provided a small glimmer of hope.

After nearly a month of closure, Egypt opened Gaza’s main gate to the outside world, but travelling was restricted to medical patients and people seriously wounded by Israeli air strikes, which are now entering their fourth day.

Gaza’s Interior Ministry announced that Palestinians holding Egyptian passports would also be eligible to leave through Rafah.

But people rushed to the crossing in the hundreds anyway on Thursday, including many who were not allowed to cross. Palestinian police officers shut the metal-iron gates to control the exit of travellers, and provide easy passage to ambulances carrying patients.

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At the gate, women, children and men were screaming at the security officials, trying to push themselves through a narrow space, as the gate was not fully closed.

Ahmed Daghma, 24, was among them. Though he has no Egyptian passport, he said he was desperate to leave.

My mother calls me crying every hour, worried about my life.

by - Ahmed Daghma, 24

“I finished my studies here and want to go back to reunite with my family in Saudi Arabia,” Daghma told Al Jazeera. “My residency will expire by the end of the month and then I won’t be able to renew it.”

Daghma said he had been trying to leave Gaza for more than a month, but large numbers of would-be travellers – more than 10,000, according to the Interior Ministry – meant he couldn’t get out the last time the crossing was open in mid-June.

“My mother calls me crying every hour, worried about my life. I try to comfort her and say it’s alright in our area, but she knew of an airstrike near our home,” he said.

Khadra Abdul Razeq, 37, was crying in the crossing’s departure hall. An Egyptian citizen, she was eligible to travel with her two children, but had to leave her husband behind because he only has a Palestinian passport.

“We live in al-Burij [refugee camp in central Gaza]. The bombings damaged our house’s windows and doors. We don’t sleep. This is not a life,” she said.

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Khaled al-Shaer, director of the Palestinian side of Rafah crossing, said he was unsure how long the crossing would remain open.

‘It might be closed tomorrow, but from our side, we are fully prepared to work at full capacity every day and can handle all the numbers of travellers,” he told Al Jazeera.

At the last point of the crossing, in front of the Egyptian gate, three ambulances carrying wounded people were waiting to cross on Thursday. Fatma Al-Naqib, 38, lay in one of them, her head wrapped in a white bandage. Her mother sat beside her, feeding her some water.

Fatma suffered from a shrapnel injury that caused fraction in the skull, her brother told Al Jazeera. “This happened after [an] F16 struck near our house,” Rajab said.

Gaza’s interior ministry said that only 11 wounded Palestinians made it out of Gaza through Rafah crossing on Thursday.

Follow Fares Akram on Twitter: @faresakram

Source: Al Jazeera