Egypt to reopen Rafah crossing with Gaza

CAIRO (AFP) — Egypt will reopen its Rafah border crossing with the Gaza strip Monday and Tuesday to allow humanitarian cases to cross.

The decision by Egyptian authorities marks the fourth time the border will be opened since it was closed after a suicide bombing in the Sinai Peninsula in October killed 30 soldiers, security officials said.

Director of the Gaza crossings Maher Abu Sabha told Ma'an that the Egyptian authorities will open the crossing from both sides.

Palestinians who travel through Rafah are mostly students heading to universities in Egypt or beyond, and those seeking medical treatment.

October's attack also led to a state of emergency and curfew being imposed in some parts of North Sinai where security forces are battling an Islamist insurgency.

The army has also created a wide buffer zone along the border with Gaza aimed at preventing infiltration by militants.

Despite these measures, on Jan. 29 another 30 people were killed when rockets and a car bomb targeted a military base and other security posts in North Sinai.

Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, a militant movement affiliated to the Islamic State group that has seized territory in Syria and Iraq, has claimed most of the attacks in North Sinai, including those in October and January.

It says its attacks are retaliation for a brutal government crackdown on supporters of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, who was ousted by the army in July 2013.

The military has said that in February 172 militants were killed in joint police and army operations in the peninsula.

An Islamic Jihad delegation and Egyptian authorities met in Cairo on March 1 to address the need for Egyptian authorities to open the Rafah crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, a need that has taken particular urgency due to the detrimental impact of movement restrictions on the reconstruction of the war-torn areas of the strip.

Sources said that Egyptian authorities agreed in principle to opening the crossing on regular basis soon, before opening it completely in the long run when Sinai calms.

Opening the crossing will be contingent on the role of the unity government in its operation, and reliant on a commitment by Hamas to stop interfering in internal Egyptian issues, sources added.

Hamas has agreed to let the presidential guards to take charge, as part of a comprehensive plan to merge employees from West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The Rafah crossing into Egypt has been the principal connection between Gaza's 1.8 million residents and the outside world since the imposition of an Israeli blockage on the strip since 2007.

 

Full article available through Ma'an News Agency at: http://www.maannews.com/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=759785

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