Egypt reopens Gaza border crossing for 4 days

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Gaza, Feb 21 (IANS) Egyptian authorities on Wednesday reopened the Rafah border crossing with the Palestinian Gaza Strip in both directions for four days.

The Palestinian Embassy in Cairo on Tuesday had announced the border was to open with priority given to medical patients, students and those with dual citizenship, the official Palestinian Authority news agency WAFA reported.

Last opened on February 7 for three days, Egypt has typically kept the Rafah crossing closed since President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi took office in 2014.

Rafah serves as the main gateway to the outside world for Gaza’s nearly two million inhabitants. It is the only crossing not controlled by Israel, which has maintained a strict blockade of the strip since 2007 after the Islamist political and military organisation Hamas took control of Gaza.

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The opening of the Rafah crossing comes amid an escalated Egyptian military campaign on Egypt’s side of the border in the Sinai Peninsula, which began on February 9.

The military campaign has killed 71 alleged militants along with three soldiers and led to 1,800 arrests.

On November 1, Hamas formally transferred control of Gaza’s border crossings to the Palestinian Authority, its rival political faction that governs the West Bank, as part of a reconciliation agreement reached on October 12 aimed at ending the two Palestinian groups’ 10-year enmity.

Hamas still maintains security control in the Gaza Strip and is in charge of coordinating travel requests and passage through the border crossing.

In light of the Palestinian unity deal, Hamas had asked Egypt to permanently open the crossing, but with reconciliation talks stalled, the border has been open only sporadically.

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