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.


Iraq’s top court ratifies manual recount of May ballots

Updated 43 min 20 sec ago
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Iraq’s top court ratifies manual recount of May ballots

  • The court decision paves the way for president to summon lawmakers to an inaugural session
  • Political wrangling over who gets to be prime minister will likely delay the process

BAGHDAD: Iraq’s top court has ratified the results of the country’s May parliamentary elections following a manual ballot recount ordered by the outgoing chamber following charges of irregularities.
The Federal Court’s decision on Sunday paves the way for the president to summon lawmakers to an inaugural session of the new, 329-seat house. In theory, parliament should then proceed to elect a speaker, a president and a prime minister, who will in turn form a new government.
However, political wrangling over who gets to be prime minister will likely delay the process for weeks, maybe months.
A coalition led by maverick Shiite cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr won the largest number of seats, 54, followed by an alliance of government-sanctioned militias known as Hashed, with 47.