After days of closures ,Egypt reopen Rafah crossing with Gaza

After days of closures ,Egypt reopen Rafah crossing with Gaza

Rafah̨ : Palestine | Jun 08, 2011 at 2:30 AM PDT
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Rafah crossing opens

The crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip was re-opened Wednesday morning after a four-day closure, after Palestinian and Egyptian officials agreed mechanisms for the passage of Palestinian travelers.

The sides agreed to opening Rafah between 9 am and 5 pm and allowing an average of 550 passengers per day to pass.

The number of passengers was less than the 700 per day requested by the Gaza authorities, but higher than the cap of 400 set after travelers overwhelmed the terminal on its first day of operation on May 28.

The Palestinian official responsible for the Rafah terminal Ayyoub Abu Sha'ar, announced the breakthrough Tuesday, and said ravelers on a list of passengers due to cross last Thursday and Saturday would be given priority.

More than three months after former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak resigned following 18 days of massive street protests against his rule, Egypt opened the Rafah terminal for all travelers except men between 18-40, allowing most Gaza residents to travel freely through the border for the first time in five years.

The border had remained largely shut since June 2006 when Israel imposed a tight blockade on Gaza after militants snatched Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who is still being held.

Rafah is Gaza's only border crossing not controlled by Israel, and news of Egypt's decision to reopen it was warmly welcomed in the coastal strip and the Egyptian street, though Israel strongly criticized the move.

But less than a week later, Egyptian authorities closed the crossing without informing Palestinian counterparts, frustrated Palestinian officials said, causing chaos as buses of travelers crossed the Palestinian terminal and found the Egyptian gate closed. Dozens of Palestinians tried to storm the Egyptian border on Saturday morning, and the terminal reopened but only for pedestrians.

Palestinian officials said the decision to allow passengers to enter only on foot was difficult to implement as many travelers were elderly or patients needing medical treatment. On Sunday, Palestinian authorities closed the terminal in protest.

On Monday, Egyptian authorities opened the border but the Palestinian side remained closed, amid ongoing talks to re-open the crossing between the Hamas-dominated government in Gaza and the post-Mubarak military government in Egypt.

Palestinian officials have been petitioning the Egyptian authorities to improve coordination, and over a published "blacklist" of 5,000 names, principally Gaza residents currently inside the coastal enclave, who are barred from travel via the crossing with Egypt.

Meanwhile,Egyptian border guards raided a tunnel used to smuggle cars between Gaza and Egypt, Egyptian security sources said Wednesday.

The forces located the site south of Salah Ad-Din gate in Rafah, on the Egyptian side of the border with the coastal strip.

Smugglers escaped through the tunnel to Gaza during the raid, the sources said, but the Egyptian guards seized four Hyundai vehicles.

Egyptian security forces had received information that the tunnel was being used to smuggle cars from Libya into Gaza, they said.

The forces said they had tightened the security around the area ahead of destroying the tunnel.

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After days of closures ,Egypt reopen Rafah crossing with Gaza
Rafah crossing
saleh1966 is based in Gaza, Ġazzah, Palestine, and is an Anchor on Allvoices.
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