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Egypt closes Rafah border crossing after 5-day opening

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A Palestinian woman waits for a travel permit to cross into Egypt through the Rafah border crossing on October 16, 2016, in the southern Gaza Strip. (Photo by AFP)

Egypt has shut the Rafah border crossing, the only passageway to the outside world for the besieged Gaza Strip, after a five-day humanitarian opening.

The Palestinian Border and Crossing Committee said in a statement on Sunday that Egyptian authorities closed the border crossing on Saturday morning, adding that the gateway had been opened for five consecutive days, allowing “humanitarian cases” to go through in both directions. 

It further said that 2,664 people, most of whom being humanitarian cases, had been able to leave the besieged coastal enclave to Egypt during the few days of the opening of the crossing. It added that non-humanitarian cases were those with Egyptian passports, who had left Gaza for Egypt.

The statement went on to say that 1,443 passengers were allowed to travel from Egypt to the Gaza Strip. Egyptian authorities, however, turned back 362 Gaza-bound passengers without giving explanation, it added.

The committee said in conclusion that the Rafah border crossing operated for a total of 32 days in the current year.   

Palestinian children are seen as people wait to cross into Egypt through the Rafah border crossing on October 16, 2016, in the southern Gaza Strip. (Photo by AFP)

The Rafah crossing was largely open before Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Egypt’s former head of the armed forces and current president, came to power in a military coup that ousted the first democratically-elected Egyptian president, Mohamed Morsi, in July 2013. Ever since, the passageway has been largely closed.

About 35,000 travelers used the crossing each month in 2012, while the figure in 2015 dropped to less than 2,400, according to the United Nations. Last year, the gateway was shut for 344 days, whereas it has been reopened on a more regular basis since the beginning of 2016.

Egypt says the closure of Rafah will continue as it still suspects that Gaza’s ruling Hamas resistance movement plays a role in assisting militants in Egypt’s volatile Sinai region. Hamas has strongly denied any involvement in the militancy, saying Sisi’s government seeks to maintain its ties with the Israeli regime through keeping Rafah closed.

The Gaza Strip, home to some 1.8 million Palestinians, has been under an Israeli siege since June 2007. The blockade has caused a decline in living standards as well as unprecedented levels of unemployment and unrelenting poverty.

Israel has also waged three wars on Gaza since 2008, including the 2014 offensive, which left more than 2,200 Palestinians dead and over 11,100 others injured.

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