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Egypt closes Rafah crossing after 4-day opening

Feb. 1, 2017 12:43 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 1, 2017 5:33 P.M.)
(File)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Egyptian authorities closed the Rafah crossing between Egypt and the besieged Gaza Strip on Wednesday after four days of opening it in both directions.

The Gaza borders and crossings committee said that 2,624 Palestinians were permitted to leave the besieged coastal enclave during the four days, including humanitarian cases and Egyptian passport holders.

The committee added that the Gaza Strip received 3,095 Palestinians returning to the small Palestinian territory, while Egyptian authorities denied passage to 203 passengers for unspecified reasons.

The crossing initially opened on Saturday for three days, but Egyptian authorities decided on Monday to keep the crossing open on Tuesday.

Two travelers died “of natural causes” at the crossing on Sunday, the Palestinian border committee said on Monday, without providing further details on the circumstances surrounding the deaths. However, many of the Palestinians who are given priority to leave the blockaded Palestinian enclave are seeking medical treatment abroad.

Prior to the four-day opening, the Rafah crossing had been closed for 38 days.

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 and 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 Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi in Egypt.

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

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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