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Egypt closes Rafah crossing after 1-day opening

Feb. 19, 2017 2:52 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 19, 2017 3:32 P.M.)
(File)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Egyptian authorities closed the Rafah crossing between the country and the Gaza Strip on Sunday morning after it was exceptionally opened for one day to allow Palestinians to return the besieged coastal enclave.

The Gaza Ministry of Interior's borders and crossings committee said that 449 Palestinians traveled back into the Gaza Strip on Saturday.

In addition, the bodies of five Palestinians who died abroad arrived to Gaza through the crossing. They were identified as Samid Abu Shanab, Ihab al-Khatib, Rafiq Ghaban, Hassan Jasir, and Yousif Abu Muhawish.

Egyptian authorities had also opened Rafah crossing on Thursday to allow those stuck on the Egyptian side to return to Gaza.

Rafah was opened for three days in both directions last week, allowing 1,527 Palestinians to leave the besieged coastal enclave and 924 to enter Gaza, while 113 were prevented from traveling for unspecified reasons.

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 had only been 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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