RAFAH: Long lines of weary Gazans waiting to cross into Egypt this week say they hold little hope the border’s brief opening for Ramadan will significantly reduce pressure on the strip.
Egypt’s President, Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, ordered the crossing at Rafah to be temporarily opened as a gesture of goodwill to “ease the burden” on Gaza.
But for the Palestinians enduring a crippling 11-year land, sea and air blockade imposed by Israel and supported by Cairo, the move is too little, too late. Many want to get out of Gaza and never come back.
Mahmood Al-Amoudi was waiting at the crossing with his wife and two daughters. He hoped to be allowed through so he could continue on and stay with his brother in Sweden.
“We live here like slaves. Nobody cares about us, even when we travel. I have been trying to travel for a week and although the crossing is open, traffic is slow,” the 37-year-old told Arab News.
“I had an argument about this with my wife: Do we have to live outside Palestine? Finally, we decided that we cannot continue living here in the Gaza Strip under such harsh conditions.”
The Palestinian Ministry of Information in Gaza said the total number of people to have crossed Rafah into Egypt in the first 10 days since the opening on May 12 stood at 4,277.
According to reports in the Palestinian media, Egypt hopes that by opening the Rafah crossing it can ease escalating tensions between Gaza’s population and Israel following weeks of protests against the occupation.
At least 114 Palestinians have been killed and thousands injured on the strip’s border with Israel since mass protests began there on March 30. The worst of the violence came on May 14, when 60 people were killed on the same day that the new US embassy was opened in Jerusalem.
Gaza is home to about 2 million people, making it one of the most densely populated areas in the world. Residents receive just four hours of electricity a day and the economy is in recession.
Israel imposed its blockade after Hamas took control of the strip in 2007, following the Islamist group’s shock victory in legislative elections a year earlier and bloody clashes with its rival Fatah.
Since El-Sisi took power in 2013, Egypt has supported the blockade because it fears that an open crossing at Rafah will allow Hamas to provide direct support to the Muslim Brotherhood. Hamas denies that the opening of the Rafa crossing for Ramadan is part of a deal with Cairo to stop or ease the protests on the Israeli border.
For people trying to cross this week, the reasons for the easing of restrictions are unimportant. They just want to get out while they have the chance.
Raed Madhoun, 32, had been waiting to cross for three days because he is afraid that he will not be allowed to leave after Ramadan.
“I am trying to travel now to complete my master’s degree in Malaysia. I stopped studying for a year because I could not travel before. Now I want to complete my studies,” he said.