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Report: Egypt expected to open Rafah crossing on regular basis in September

Aug. 22, 2017 5:14 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 27, 2017 12:08 P.M.)
Palestinians await permission to enter Egypt as they gather inside the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and southern Gaza Strip, 2014 (AFP/Said Khatib/File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Egyptian authorities are expected to reopen the Rafah crossing between the besieged Gaza Strip and Egypt on a regular basis in September, following the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, Israeli media reported on Tuesday.

According to Israeli daily Haaretz, the crossing would be opened by Egyptian authorities on a regular schedule after renovations are complete that began in March, which would “allow the passage of goods and protect the crossing against terror attacks.”

The renovations would also include “the installation of a computer system connected to Cairo,” Haaretz quoted sources in Rafah as saying.

Yahya Sinwar, the leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, reportedly told reporters at a meeting last week that the crossing would “very likely” be open to both goods and people immediately after Eid al-Adha, according to Haaretz.

However, Haaretz reported that contradictory statements emerged last week, when the Palestinian director of public relations on the Palestinian side of the crossing noted that Egyptian authorities had not actually announced their plans to open the crossing in September.

On Sunday, it was announced that 240 Palestinian worshipers would be permitted to leave the besieged Gaza Strip in order to travel to Saudi Arabia for the Hajj pilgrimage.

Egyptian authorities closed the Rafah crossing on August 18, after a four-day opening in which an estimated 2,500 Palestinians from Gaza travelled through the crossing on their way to Saudi Arabia. Before that, the crossing was last opened in early May.

Without access to the Rafah crossing, many Palestinians in Gaza must depend on the Israeli-controlled Erez crossing to exit the besieged territory.

However, the number of Israeli exit permits granted to Palestinians from Gaza has dropped “dramatically,” Israeli NGO Gisha noted earlier this month, with the number of permits given monthly by Israel dropping to just half the amount issued in 2016.

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

Palestinians are often stranded on both sides of the crossing for months at a time, while tens of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza have been waiting for several months for Rafah's opening after already having been approved for travel.
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