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Rafah crossing to open for 2 days to allow return of Palestinians stuck in Egypt

Aug. 25, 2017 12:00 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 27, 2017 11:41 A.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The Palestinian embassy in Cairo declared on Thursday that the Rafah crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip would be opened for two days on Sunday, August 27, and Monday, August 28th.

The embassy added that Egyptian authorities decided to open the crossing to allow the return of Palestinians from Gaza stuck on the Egyptian side of the border to return back to Gaza, and to allow humanitarian cases and holders of Egyptian residency cards out of the Gaza Strip.

The Palestinian ambassador Jamal al-Shubki expressed his thanks to the Egyptian people, leadership and security services.

However on Sunday, the Palestinian Minister of Waqf (Islamic endowment) and Religious Affairs Sheikh Yousif Ideis said the opening would also serve to allow Palestinian worshipers to leave the besieged Gaza Strip to travel to Saudi Arabia to perform the Muslim hajj pilgrimage.

Reports emerged on Tuesday from Israeli media that Egyptian authorities are expected to open the Rafah crossing between the besieged Gaza Strip and Egypt on a regular basis in September, following the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.

Yahya Sinwar, the leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, reportedly told journalists at a meeting last week that the crossing would “very likely” be open to both goods and people immediately after Eid al-Adha, according to Haaretz.

However, Haaretz reported that contradictory statements emerged last week, when the Palestinian director of public relations on the Palestinian side of the crossing noted that Egyptian authorities had not actually announced their plans to open the crossing in September.

Without access to the Rafah crossing, many Palestinians in Gaza must depend on the Israeli-controlled Erez crossing to exit the besieged territory.

However, the number of Israeli exit permits granted to Palestinians from Gaza has dropped “dramatically,” Israeli NGO Gisha noted earlier this month, with the number of permits given monthly by Israel dropping to just half the amount issued in 2016.

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

Palestinians are often stranded on both sides of the crossing for months at a time, while tens of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza have been waiting for several months for Rafah's opening after already having been approved for travel.

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