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Sources: Egypt planning to open Rafah crossing with Gaza twice a month

March 6, 2017 8:10 P.M. (Updated: March 7, 2017 12:55 P.M.)
(File)
CAIRO (Ma’an) -- Top Egyptian security officials told Ma’an that the Egyptian government had plans to open the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the besieged Gaza Strip twice a month in both directions.

Sources told Ma’an that the decision came directly from Egyptian President Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi, who ordered to continue the opening of Rafah crossing in both directions twice a month for all Palestinian humanitarian cases, “as an attempt to lessen the suffering of Palestinian people in Gaza Strip.”

“Egypt is planning to lift the siege imposed on the Gaza Strip by opening the crossing twice every month, achieving Palestinian national reconciliation, conducting strategic projects in the Gaza Strip and securing the Palestinian-Egyptian border,” sources added.

Egyptian authorities announced on Saturday evening that the Rafah border crossing would be opened in both directions on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, according to spokesman of Gaza's crossings committee Hisham Udwan.

Since the beginning of the year, Egyptian authorities have opened the crossing in both direction twice, most recently in mid-February.

Egypt has upheld an Israeli military blockade on the Gaza Strip since the ousting of former President Muhammad Morsi in 2013 and the rise to power of al-Sisi in Egypt.

While the Egyptian border has remained the main lifeline for Gazans to the outside world, Egyptian authorities have slowly sealed off movement through the border since Morsi was toppled by the Egyptian army.

Due to the constraints on Palestinian movement through the crossing, many Gazans are commonly barred from leaving or entering the besieged coastal enclave, some for months at a time, as the crossing is only periodically opened by Egyptian authorities, stranding Palestinians on both sides of the crossing during closures.

According to the United Nations, during 2016, the crossing was partially opened for only 44 days. In 2015, the crossing had only been open for 21 days.

The decade-long Israeli blockade has plunged the Gaza Strip’s nearly two million Palestinians into extreme poverty and some of the highest unemployment rates in the world.

Gaza's infrastructure has yet to recover from the devastation of three Israeli offensives over the past six years. The slow and sometimes stagnant reconstruction of the besieged coastal enclave has only been worsened by the blockade, leading the UN to warn that Gaza could be “uninhabitable” by 2020.

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