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Egypt opens Rafah crossing for 2nd day

June 30, 2016 4:29 P.M. (Updated: June 30, 2016 4:32 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Egyptian authorities opened the Rafah crossing between the besieged Gaza Strip and Egypt for a second day in a row on Thursday, permitting hundreds of Gazans to enter and exit the crossing for urgent humanitarian needs.

The Rafah crossing closed on midnight Wednesday after opening in the morning, allowing 572 Palestinians to cross into Egypt from the Gaza Strip on eight buses, according to the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Gaza.

The ministry said that 427 Palestinians entered Gaza from Egypt, while 13 were sent back to the besieged enclave after being denied access into Egypt.

The Egyptian authorities were expected to open the crossing until Monday. However, it will be closed on Friday, the ministry added.

The short break in heavy border restrictions comes as Israel's military blockade of the Gaza Strip approaches nearly a decade. Gaza's 1.8 million residents continue to struggle to meet their basic needs due to severe constraints on goods coming in and out.

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 democratically-elected president Mohamed Morsi was toppled by the Egyptian army in 2013.

Due to the constraints on Palestinian movement through the crossing, many are commonly barred from leaving or entering the Gaza Strip, 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.

Tens of thousands of Palestinians have been approved to enter Egypt, most of whom are in need of medical treatment, holding foreign passports, reuniting with family members outside of the enclave, or studying outside of Gaza.

However, only a few hundred Palestinians are allowed to exit Gaza each day during the crossing’s intermittent openings, leavings thousands of Palestinians stranded for months without access to medical treatment, schooling, or their family members.

In 2015, the Rafah crossing was closed for 344 days. However, the Rafah crossing has been reopened on a more regular basis in 2016. Most recently, the Egyptian government opened the Rafah crossing for four days during the first week of June ahead of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, during which time more than 3,000 people left the Gaza Strip.

The sustained closures rose amid accusations by Egyptian authorities that Hamas was backing militants who have carried out deadly attacks on security forces in the Sinai Peninsula that borders the Palestinian territory, allegations Hamas has denied.

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