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Hundreds rush to southern Gaza Strip after Egypt opens Rafah crossing

Feb. 13, 2016 12:09 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 13, 2016 4:43 P.M.)
Palestinians gather in front of the Rafah crossing between the southern Gaza Strip and Egypt, Jan. 16, 2015. (AFP/Said Khatib, File)
GAZA CITY (Ma’an) -- Hundreds of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip gathered in the southern city of Khan Yunis after the Egyptian authorities in a rare move on Saturday decided to open the Rafah crossing to Egypt.

It will be the first time the crossing has been opened this year. Located on the besieged territory's southern border, Egypt announced Rafah will be open in both directions for two days.

Gaza’s Ministry of Interior told Ma’an that 765 Palestinians had been approved to travel on Saturday.

According to authorities in Gaza, over 25,000 people with urgent needs -- including around 3,500 medical cases -- are registered and waiting to cross. Only a fraction of those registered and waiting are likely to gain passage through the crossing.

Following the announcement, hundreds of Palestinians filtered south to the Abu Yousif Al-Najjar sports center, where the ministry typically checks and selects Gaza residents for travel to Egypt.

Due to the high volumes of Palestinians attempting to leave and enter the strip, the ministry was forced to allow travel only for those whose need to travel is the most urgent, including those classified as “humanitarian cases.”

Gazans approved to cross were taken in buses from the Al-Najjar center to the border, where locals reported that the passenger hall on the Palestinian side of the Rafah crossing was also crowded with people.

For the majority of the past three years, Egypt has upheld an Israeli military blockade on the Gaza Strip that began in 2007.

The blockade has plunged the Gaza Strip’s more than 1.8 million Palestinians into poverty. The destruction from three Israeli offenses over the past six years and slow reconstruction due to the blockade led the UN in September to warn that Gaza could be “uninhabitable” by 2020.

A survey of Gaza’s Palestinians conducted last year reported that half of the population would emigrate from the enclave if they had the opportunity.
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