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Egypt closes Rafah crossing after rare 3-day opening

16 February 2016 20:01


Egypt has closed the Rafah crossing, the only gateway to the outside world for the besieged Gaza Strip, after a three-day humanitarian opening.

The interior ministry of the resistance movement Hamas based in Gaza said in a statement on Tuesday that Egyptian officials closed the border crossing after a one-day extension which ended earlier in the day.

The statement said 2,439 people from Gaza used the rare opportunity for leaving the enclave on the Mediterranean while 1,122 entered and 334 were turned back by Egyptian authorities.

Gaza has been under a crippling siege by the Israeli regime for nearly a decade with Gazans using the snap openings of the Rafah crossing as the only way to get in touch with the outside world.

Many young Palestinians study in Egyptian universities while Palestinians visit their families on the other side of the border.

Long lines of Gazans queued at the crossing on Tuesday, many carrying heavy suitcases.

Hamas said the border crossing was open for just 21 days in total in 2015, making the year “the worst year for Rafah in recent years.” The humanitarian opening came after 70 days that the crossing was closed.

The Rafah crossing was largely open before Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Egypt’s former head of the armed forces and current president, came to power in a military coup that ousted the first democratically-elected Egyptian president, Mohamed Morsi, in July 2013.

About 35,000 travelers used the crossing each month in 2012, while the figure in 2015 dropped to less than 2,400, according to the United Nations. The UN says it has registered 30,000 Palestinians as “humanitarian cases” seeking to leave Gaza.

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