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.


Israel locks down Ramallah after two soldiers shot dead

Updated 14 December 2018
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Israel locks down Ramallah after two soldiers shot dead

  • The bloodshed began when Israeli forces shot dead two Palestinians
  • Hours later, a Palestinian gunman killed two Israeli soldiers and wounded a third

AMMAN: Israel was accused on Thursday of humiliating Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas by placing Ramallah on virtual lockdown amid a 24-hour outbreak of violence in which five people died.

The bloodshed began when Israeli forces shot dead two Palestinians suspected of earlier attacks. Salah Barghouti, 29, was accused of shooting seven Israelis on Sunday at a bus station near the Ofra settlement. Ashraf Naalwa, 23, shot two Israelis dead in the Barkan industrial zone settlement in October.

Hours later, a Palestinian gunman killed two Israeli soldiers and wounded a third when he opened fire at the Ofra bus station.

Israeli forces chased the gunman into Ramallah, where they set up road blocks, launched raids and placed the town under virtual siege. In the hunt for the gunman, a Palestinian was shot dead in Al-Bireh neighborhood of Ramallah.

Abbas Zaki, a leading Fatah official, told Arab News Palestinian frustration was being fueled by Israel. “They barged into Ramallah in violation of existing agreements and came very close to the home of President Abbas.

“What more do people need to see to let them give up on a process when Israelis are willing to humiliate in such a way the father of Palestinian peace?”

Abbas himself condemned the anti-Israeli attacks but blamed Israeli raids as a potential cause.

“The climate created by the policy of repeated intrusions into the cities, the provocations against the sovereignty of the president and the lack of a horizon for peace are what led to this unacceptable violence that we condemn and reject,” he said.