Thousands of Palestinians jam Gaza border, temporarily opened by Egypt

Palestinians wait their turn to cross into Egypt at Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, after Egyptian officials opened the border with Gaza for the first time this year. (AP Photo)
Updated 08 February 2018
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Thousands of Palestinians jam Gaza border, temporarily opened by Egypt

GAZA: Thousands of Palestinian travelers gathered at Gaza’s border crossing with Egypt on Thursday hoping for a brief chance to leave after Cairo temporarily opened a frontier it largely keeps closed as it battles an Islamist insurgency on the other side.
Israel also maintains tight restrictions on its border with the Gaza Strip, meaning the 2 million Palestinians who live there are rarely able to leave the densely-populated enclave in which the Hamas Islamist movement is the dominant armed force.
In a wheelchair and helped by his wife and daughter, 74-year-old Awni An-Najar said at Rafah crossing that he sought to enter Egypt for treatment of his broken hip.
“Patients must be allowed to travel freely. I want to be able to walk again,” he said.
Egypt tends to open the frontier temporarily a few times a year, usually with short notice and little explanation. The latest opening began on Wednesday with no advanced announcement at all.
The Palestinian embassy in Cairo “extended gratitude to President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi for his care to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinian people,” it said in a statement.
The Egyptian foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
It was only the second time in more than a decade that the border was opened while unarmed security officers of the Western-backed Palestinian Authority (PA), rather than Hamas, guarded the Palestinian side.
A reconciliation agreement in October between Hamas and the rival Fatah movement of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas gave the PA control of the Rafah crossing for the first time since Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007. Egypt opened the border briefly in December.
Gazans have hoped PA control could be a step toward the permanent reopening of the frontier, ending a state of de facto blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt for security reasons, which has destroyed the territory’s economy leaving Gaza with the world’s highest unemployment rate according to the World Bank.
So far, Egyptian authorities say a permanent opening of the border depends on security on the Egyptian side, where they have been battling an increasingly violent Islamist insurgency.
Because of the lack of prior notice, only several dozen travelers arrived in time to cross on Wednesday. A far bigger crowd turned up on Thursday. Rafah will close again after nightfall on Friday.
Egypt has accused Hamas in the past of aiding the Sinai insurgents, an allegation the movement denies. In recent months, Hamas has stepped up security along the border.


Iran’s Hassan Rouhani may skip UN meet over US visa delay

Updated 18 September 2019

Iran’s Hassan Rouhani may skip UN meet over US visa delay

TEHRAN: Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani and his delegation could be forced into skipping next week’s UN General Assembly because the United States has yet to issue them visas, state media said Wednesday.
Rouhani and his delegation had been scheduled to travel to New York for the annual UN gathering on Monday, but that was now looking unlikely given the lack of visas, state news agency IRNA said.
“If the visas aren’t issued in a few hours, this trip will probably be canceled,” IRNA reported.
The delegation includes Iran’s top diplomat Mohammad Javad Zarif, who the United States imposed sanctions against on July 31.
The foreign minister had been due to travel to New York on Friday morning, according to IRNA.
The absence of Rouhani would ruin France’s bid to arrange a meeting between him and US President Donald Trump as part of European efforts to de-escalate tensions between the arch-foes.
“Iran’s absence will show that in contrast with its commitments to the United Nations and international organizations within the framework of agreements, diplomacy has no value for the United States,” IRNA said.
“Although the Islamic Republic of Iran has not left the scene and it continues its active diplomacy, the US government must answer for its behavior,” it added.
The UN General Assembly debate is due to begin on Tuesday.
As the host government, the United States generally is obliged to issue visas to diplomats who serve at UN headquarters.
But Iran and the United States have been at loggerheads since May last year when Trump abandoned a 2015 nuclear deal and began reimposing sanctions in its campaign of “maximum pressure.”
Iran responded by scaling back its commitments under the landmark accord, which gave it the promise of sanctions relief in return for limiting the scope of its nuclear program.