Egypt Opens Rafah Gaza Border Crossing, But With Restrictions
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Egypt Opens Rafah Gaza Border Crossing, But With Restrictions

Rafah̨ : Egypt | May 28, 2011 at 11:02 AM PDT
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May 28, 2011--

The Saturday morning opening of the border between Egypt and Gaza after being blocked for four years signaled the end of what some believe could be construed as an illegal closure.

The principle of “proportionality” is central to international law: The military advantage gained by an action must outweigh the harm caused to the civilian population. It has been argued that the principle of proportionality with the blockade does not meet this test. It imposes hardships on the entire population of Gaza - 1.5 million people - purportedly in order to achieve a limited military aim.

However, Egypt is not an occupying power in Gaza - it does not exercise "effective control" over the territory - so, whatever the moral and political arguments against a blockade, it is not required to apply the same legal standard as Israel.

There are still some concerns by the Israeli government that re-opening the border will fuel the Hamas Islamic movement, which controls the Palestinian enclave, while raising concern in Israel that the wider border access poses a security threat.

In a phone interview with Bloomberg Yigal Palmor, an Israeli Foreign Ministry splokesman said, “We will obviously be looking to preserve security arrangements at the border and hope nothing will be done to allow Hamas to empower itself and to reinforce its terrorist infrastructures,” Yigal Palmor, an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman, said in a phone interview. “The Israeli position has been made known to all relevant authorities, including in Egypt.”

The border was closed under the policies of Hosni Mubarak who was removed from office after being president of Egypt from 1981 until his resignation in February 2011. On 25 January 2011, protests against Mubarak and his government erupted in Cairo and around Egypt calling for Mubarak's resignation.

What Does Opening The Border Mean to Palestinians In Their Own Words

Hundreds of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip entered Egypt as the border crossing was opened permanently for the first time in four years amid Israeli concerns that the move strengthens Hamas’s rule of the area.

The Indiatimes.com reports personal and poignant stories. Rami Arafat, 52, was among the earliest arrivals. He said he hoped to catch a flight out of Cairo on Sunday to Algeria for his daughter's wedding.



"All we need is to travel like humans, be treated with dignity, and feel like any other citizens of the world who can travel in and out freely," Arafat said. He said he believed the relaxing of travel restrictions "will guarantee more support from all Arabs and Palestinians for the new Egyptian regime."



Nearby, 28-year-old Khaled Halaweh said he was headed to Egypt to study for a master's degree in engineering at Alexandria University.



"The closure did not affect only the travel of passengers or the flowing of goods. Our brains and our thoughts were under blockade," said Halaweh, who said he hadn't been out of Gaza for seven years.

Among the estimated 400 waiting this morning to cross the Rafah border were two ambulances carrying individuals seeking medical care in Egypt.

Restrictions

While opening the border signals to many Palestinians a return to normalcy, restrictions are in place.

Al Jazeera's Nicole Johnston, reporting from Gaza, said there will still be restrictions in place, preventing men younger than 40 from leaving the coastal territory, which is ruled by the Palestinian group, Hamas.

It will allow basically all women to leave Gaza, also children under the age of 18 years will be allowed to leave, as well as men over the age of 40 years. However, those between the ages of 18 and 40 years will require an Egyptian visa," she said.

"Visas would have to come from Ramallah. Sources in Hamas say they have been told by the Egyptian authorities over the last few weeks that they [Egyptians] do intend to open some sort of representative office inside Gaza, so that people can get the visa from there."

"Today is a cornerstone for a new era that we hope will pave the road to ending the siege and blockade on Gaza," said Hatem Awideh, director general of the Hamas border authority in Gaza. "We hope this facilitation by our Egyptian brothers will improve travel and will allow everyone to leave Gaza."

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Rafah border opened to Palestinians
"Today is a cornerstone for a new era that we hope will pave the road to ending the siege and blockade on Gaza," said Hatem Awideh, director general of the Hamas border authority in Gaza.
Dava Castillo is based in Clearlake, California, United States of America, and is an Anchor on Allvoices.
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