Egypt opens Gaza border crossing as humanitarian crisis deepens

Egyptians opens border with Gaza for the first time in 2018. (File Photo: reuters)
Updated 07 February 2018
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Egypt opens Gaza border crossing as humanitarian crisis deepens

RAFAH, GAZA STRIP: Egyptian authorities opened the Rafah border crossing with Gaza on Wednesday after grave warnings about the humanitarian situation in the territory.
Palestinians rushed to Rafah, the only crossing point with a country other than Israel, when they heard it would open for the first time this year.
The Palestinian Embassy in Cairo said the crossing would only open for three days for travel and return of Palestinians, the Wafa news agency reported.
Since the Hamas takeover of Gaza in 2007, Gaza has been under a strict Israeli blockade, with few people able to travel in and out.
In recent months, an already desperate humanitarian situation has become even worse, with the UN’s envoy for the Middle East peace process warning that the territory was about to “collapse.”
Ibtisam Qeshta, 57, waited in front of the gate at the crossing to travel with her son for treatment at an Egyptian hospital.
“I have a liver disease,” she told Arab News. “I got a medical referral from the hospital in Gaza for treatment in Egypt after Israel refused to give me a permission to go to Al-Maqassed Hospital in Jerusalem. My health status does not allow me to wait very long.”
Normally the announcement to open the crossing is made at least one day before, allowing people to prepare. But on Wednesday morning Egypt announced it would open immediately.
The last time Rafah opened was for three days in December after forces from the Palestinian Authority took control of the border post in November.
The handover of security was the result of a reconciliation agreement between the warring Palestinian factions Fatah, which controls the Palestinian Authority and the West Bank, and Hamas which controls Gaza.
Mohammed Al-Sawafiri, 24, said he has been waiting for several months to reach Egypt so that he could go on to complete a master’s degree in Europe, for which he has a scholarship.
“I tried to travel in December last year, but I could not because of the lack of time," he said as he waited by the entrance gate. “I was supposed to travel since last year, but travel was almost impossible. I have postponed the scholarship for the second semester, and I'm about to lose it entirely if I cannot travel this time.”
Samir Al Madhoun, 37, who travels with his wife, said he was trying to reach the United Arab Emirates.
”I have a visa for the UAE for the third time, but every time Rafah was open I couldn’t travel,” he said “I have a job there, I will go to the UAE if I could travel this time, and I will not be back soon.”
The Rafah crossing with Egypt is the only crossing for travel abroad, with the exception of a few hundred Palestinians with Israeli permits to travel to Jordan through the Erez crossing between Gaza and Israel.
Egypt opened the Rafah crossing for just 21 days in 2017. Palestinians in Gaza hoped it would be permanently opened after the Palestinian Authority took over the crossings in November.
Egyptian officials say they are unable to open Rafah more regularly because of the deteriorating security situation on the Sinai peninsula in recent years. Gaza borders Sinai, where extremist groups have been waging an insurgency against the Egyptian Army.


Turkey bans rally for Kurdish MP on hunger strike

A member of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) reacts next to policemen during a demonstration in solidarity with a HDP lawmaker on hunger strike in the Turkish city of Diyarbakir, on February 15, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 16 February 2019
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Turkey bans rally for Kurdish MP on hunger strike

  • Ocalan, one of the founders of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) that has waged a bloody insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984, has not been allowed to see his lawyers since 2011

DIYARBAKIR, Turkey: Turkish police on Friday prevented supporters from rallying outside the home of a pro-Kurdish lawmaker on hunger strike for 100 days.
The protest bid coincides with the 20th anniversary of the capture of Kurdish militant leader Abdullah Ocalan, who is jailed in a notorious prison island near Istanbul.
Leyla Guven of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), launched her action on Nov. 8 while in jail to protest against Ocalan’s prison conditions.
She was freed last month under judicial supervision but continued her protest, refusing any treatment. Guven, 55, is consuming only sugared or salted water.
Police on Friday blocked supporters from approaching Guven’s house in the Kurdish-majority city of Diyarbakir after a rally called by the HDP, an AFP correspondent said.
“The biggest task ahead of us today is to turn every aspect of life into an arena for struggle and support hunger strikes at the highest level,” HDP MP Dilan Dirayet Tasdemir said.
“This dark picture and severe conditions of fascism can only be broken through our organized struggle,” Tasdemir said.
More than 200 prisoners are on hunger strike to protest what they call Ocalan’s isolation, according to the HDP.
Ocalan, one of the founders of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) that has waged a bloody insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984, has not been allowed to see his lawyers since 2011.
The PKK is blacklisted as a terror group by Ankara and its Western allies.
Ocalan was caught in Kenya outside the Greek Embassy in Nairobi on Feb. 15, 1999 by Turkish secret service agents after attempting to seek asylum in Europe.
Turkish authorities last month allowed Ocalan’s brother Mehmet to see him, the first visit in over two years.