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Palestinians travel through Rafah crossing on final day of 3-day opening

Feb. 13, 2017 2:11 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 13, 2017 9:54 P.M.)
GAZA (Ma’an) -- Egyptian authorities continued to allow humanitarian cases, students, and top officials to pass through the Rafah border crossing with the besieged Gaza Strip on Monday for the final day of a three-day opening.

The Palestinian borders and crossings committee said that on Monday, Egypt allowed buses that had been denied access on Sunday to leave the Gaza Strip.

The committee said that 601 Palestinians were able to travel from the Gaza Strip into Egypt on Sunday, while 30 Palestinians were denied entry to Egypt for unspecified reasons.

Egyptian authorities also allowed 56 trucks loaded with cement, iron, and electricity generators to enter the blockaded coastal enclave.

On Saturday, 183 passengers arrived to Gaza from Egypt, 11 Palestinians were denied entry into Egypt, and 70 truckloads of cement and iron bars for construction were allowed into Gaza.

The last time the crossing was opened was on Jan. 28, when Palestinians were permitted to cross for four consecutive days. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 2,624 people were allowed to leave and 3,095 were allowed to return to the Gaza Strip during the opening, which was the first time since the beginning of 2017 that the crossing was opened in both directions.

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

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.

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.

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.

The decade-long Israeli blockade has plunged the Gaza Strip’s 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 six 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 be “uninhabitable” by 2020.
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