Rafah border crossing reopened by Egypt, easing blockade to Gaza
(1 June 2011)
Four years after Egypt agreed to close the only border crossing to Gaza, the Rafah crossing will be reopened from 28 May 2011, allowing many Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip the ability to cross into Egypt. Following pressure from Israel, recently ousted Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak closed the Rafah border crossing after Hamas came to power in Gaza, a move that was seen as largely unpopular in Egypt. Israel has condemned the decision to reopen the crossing, citing concerns over weapons smuggling from Egypt into Gaza.
While the border crossing has been opened, Palestinian men between the age of 18 and 40 still require permits, and all others must still carry Israeli-issued Palestinian ID cards. The crossing will be open between 9am and 9pm, and will close on Fridays and holidays. Trade also remains prohibited across the border. Previous to the opening of the border crossing, only 300 Palestinians were given permits to cross each day. The Israeli-led blockade on Gaza was deemed by the Red Cross as a violation of international humanitarian law in 2010. Israel had eased some of its restrictions on goods entering in to Gaza in 2010, however the region still suffers from severe shortages.
Organizers of an upcoming Gaza aid flotilla have stated that they will still send fifteen ships with approximately 1500 activists to the region in June. The boats will carry food, humanitarian aid, medical equipment, construction materials and other supplies. Recent protests in Istanbul have marked the one year anniversary since Israeli forces boarded boats involved in a previous aid flotilla, killing nine Turkish activists on 31 May 2010. The organizers of the current flotilla have argued that Gaza remains under blockade, through its inability to use its sea and ongoing restrictions on trade in the region.
Sources: ‘Egypt eases blockade at Gaza’s Rafah border’, BBC News, 28 May 2011; ‘Gaza flotilla vow as thousands rally in Istanbul’, BBC News, 31 May 2011