Egypt to open Rafah crossing with Gaza for Ramadan

President el-Sisi orders opening of main crossing with Gaza Strip to ‘ease burdens’ during Muslim holy month.

Palestinians wait to travel to Egypt through the Rafah border crossing, in the southern Gaza Strip
Rafah is the main exit for two million Palestinians in the Strip to the outside world [Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters]

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has ordered the opening of the Rafah border crossing with Gaza Strip for the entire holy month of Ramadan, days after mass protests along the Gaza-Israel border in which more than 60 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces.

Sisi made the announcement on Twitter late on Thursday, marking the longest duration since 2013 that the only crossing connecting Gaza to Egypt would be accessible for. 

“I have instructed the concerned agencies concerned to take the necessary steps to keep the Rafah border crossing open throughout the holy month of Ramadan in order to ensure the easing of the burdens on the brothers in the Gaza Strip,” Sisi said.

Ramadan started on May 17 and is expected to end on June 14.

Rafah is the main exit for the 1.9 million Palestinians in the Strip to the outside world since Israel imposed a land, sea and air blockade on the besieged territory more than a decade ago.

But following el-Sisi’s rise to power in 2014, Egypt has kept the crossing largely closed.

The Erez crossing, the other exit for Gazans, is managed by the Israelis, who put severe limitations on the number of people who can pass through it.

Rafah was last opened temporarily in February for two days to allow some 160 Palestinians, who were stranded in Cairo’s airport for nearly two weeks after being denied entry to the Gaza Strip, to return to the enclave.

The border was also opened for three days in November last year as part of a unity deal between rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas.

Last year, the crossing was open for just 36 days, according to Israeli NGO, Gisha.

Egypt’s decision on Thursday comes amid heightened tensions along the Gaza-Israel border over the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem.

On Monday, at least 60 Palestinian protesters were killed by Israeli forces as they held demonstrations near the Israeli-Gaza fence as part of the Nakba or “Catastrophe” protests. More than 700,000 Palestinians were violently expelled in 1948 from areas that are now under the control of Israel.

Source: Al Jazeera