Egypt Opens Gaza Crossing for 48 Hours After 85-Day Closure

GAZA (Reuters) -
People wait for travel permits to cross into Egypt through the Rafah border crossing after it was opened for two days by Egyptian authorities, in the southern Gaza Strip May 11, 2016. REUTERS/Suhaib Salem
People wait for travel permits to cross into Egypt through the Rafiach border crossing after it was opened for two days by Egyptian authorities, in the southern Gaza Strip, Wednesday. (Reuters/Suhaib Salem)

Egypt opened its border with Gaza for the first time in three months on Wednesday, giving Palestinians a two-day respite from a closure stemming from friction between Cairo and the enclave’s Islamist rulers.

Egypt’s military-backed government has kept its border with the Gaza Strip largely closed since Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood, was ousted as president three years ago.

Egyptian officials view Gaza’s governing Hamas group as a threat, accusing it of supporting an Islamist insurgency in the Sinai peninsula bordering the Palestinian territory. Hamas denies the allegation.

Some 30,000 Gazans are on a waiting list to cross at Rafiach. Only a few thousand, including patients, students and holders of residency permits in third countries, were likely to do so on Wednesday and Thursday before it closes again.

For Gazans who live or work outside the enclave, a visit home is hard to schedule, and it carries the risk of being stuck in the territory and losing residency rights in host countries.

“You never know when the crossing will be open, so if you want to come and visit your family at home, you should be prepared to risk your job,” said a Gaza merchant who does business in the Gulf.

The Palestinian Embassy in Cairo said Rafiach was opened at the request of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, who met Egyptian leader Abdel Fattah al-Sisi this week.

Hamas ousted Abbas’s Fatah movement from power in Gaza in a brief civil war in 2007.

At Cairo international airport, immigration sources said 90 Palestinians from Gaza, stranded in third countries, had arrived and would travel by bus to Rafiach. The sources said another 120 Palestinians were expected to land later.

Last week, Israel said it planned to reopen a second border point for commercial traffic into Gaza, a step toward gradually easing the blockade it imposed since 2007.

Israel says its blockade prevents the movement of terrorists and stops construction materials that could be used by Hamas to make bunkers and tunnels.