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Egypt closes Gaza’s Rafah crossing on both sides, gives no explanation

The file photo shows the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the besieged Gaza Strip.

Egypt has closed the Rafah crossing on its border with the besieged Gaza Strip, declining to provide details or reasons for the move.

The Egyptian authorities closed the Rafah border crossing with Gaza Strip in both directions on Monday until further notice, blocking the only land opening to the rest of the world for Palestinians living in the coastal enclave.

Iyad al-Bozom, the spokesman for the Gaza Interior Ministry controlled by the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas, said in a short statement late on Sunday that the Egyptian authorities had informed the ministry of shutting down the crossing from August 23.

Security sources in Egypt confirmed the closure decision, saying it would be closed until further notice, without offering details or saying why.

Egypt had ordered the Rafah crossing to open in May to allow Gazans wounded in then-Israeli attacks to be treated and to deliver aid.

Rafah, which is open all days of the week in both directions except on Fridays and Saturdays, is a lifeline for Gazans who have been under a crippling Israeli siege since 2007.

Citing two Egyptian security sources, Reuters said the Monday’s closure was made for “security reasons” following an escalation between Israel and Palestinians at the weekend, with Israeli aircraft striking sites in eastern Gaza.

Late on Saturday, Israeli warplanes struck positions in the Gaza Strip after shelling the besieged enclave and wounding at least 41 Palestinians, including two critically.

The Israeli military claimed in a statement that its “fighter jets have struck four weapons storage and manufacturing sites" belonging to Hamas in response to a shooting attack that critically wounded an Israeli soldier.

Among the two Palestinians critically injured was a 13-year-old boy who was shot in the head, Gaza's health ministry said.

The recent closure of Rafah crossing comes after the Israeli military launched on May 10 a brutal bombing campaign against Gaza, following Palestinian retaliation for violent raids on worshipers at al-Aqsa Mosque and the regime’s plans to force a number of Palestinian families out of their homes at the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East al-Quds.

About 260 Palestinians were killed in the Israeli bombardment, including dozens of women and children.

In response, Palestinian resistance movements, chief among them Hamas, launched Operation al-Quds Sword and fired more than 4,000 rockets and missiles into the occupied territories. Twelve Israelis were killed.

Apparently caught off guard by the unprecedented barrage of rockets from Gaza, Israel announced a unilateral ceasefire on May 21, which Palestinian resistance movements accepted with Egyptian mediation.

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