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2 Palestinians die 'of natural causes' at Gaza-Egypt border crossing

Jan. 30, 2017 11:44 A.M. (Updated: Jan. 31, 2017 10:16 A.M.)
(File)
GAZA (Ma’an) -- Two travelers died “of natural causes” at the Rafah crossing on Sunday, on the second of a three-day opening of the border crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian border committee said in a statement.

The committee did not provide further details on the circumstances surrounding the deaths, nor was it clear whether the deceased were entering or exiting Gaza. However, many of the Palestinians who are given priority to leave the blockaded Palestinian enclave seek medical treatment abroad.

The committee added that some 685 Palestinians were able to leave the besieged Palestinian territory on Sunday, while 1,340 travelers crossed into Gaza.

The committee added that Egyptian authorities denied entrance to 40 Palestinians for unknown reasons.

Egypt opened Rafah crossing on Saturday after 38 days of closure, announcing the crossing would be opened for a total of three days for humanitarian cases.

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.

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

Over 20,000 people, including humanitarian cases, are registered and waiting to cross, according to Palestinian authorities in Gaza.

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.

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 eight 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 become “uninhabitable” by 2020.
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