Egypt Opens Rafah Crossing on Saturday, Sunday for Humanitarian Cases to Leave Gaza

The Egyptian authorities will open the Rafah border crossing this weekend to allow medical patients and students enrolled at foreign universities to leave the blockaded Gaza Strip, according to Gazan border officials, according to Anadolu Agency.

“The Egyptians have told us that they will open the crossing on Saturday and Sunday to allow humanitarian cases [i.e., medical patients and students] to travel abroad,” Hisham Odwan, Rafah crossing director on the Palestinian side, told Anadolu Agency.

The Head of the media office at the Rafah crossing Wael Abu Omar said that the crossing would open for sick people, permit holders, and urgent humanitarian cases.

The report has been confirmed by the Palestinian embassy in Egypt, which said medical patients and holders of foreign residence permits would be given priority.

The Palestinian embassy in Egypt thanked Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi for assuaging the suffering of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

At least 800 Palestinians crossed into Egypt last Thursday on the third day of the crossing opening to allow Palestinians passage for the Muslim Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia, while 787 Palestinian pilgrims crossed into Egypt on Wednesday.

Nine Palestinians pilgrims were denied passage for unknown reasons.

Egypt has upheld an Israeli military blockade on the Gaza Strip for the majority of the past three years, since the ouster of President Muhammad Morsi in 2013 and the rise to power of Abd al-Fattah 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 are commonly barred from leaving or entering the Gaza Strip, 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.

In 2015, the Rafah crossing was closed for 344 days. The crossing has been reopened on a more regular basis in 2016.
The Rafah border crossing was most recently opened in early July, when some 3,099 people left Gaza during the five-day opening for humanitarian purposes.

Last year, Egypt let some 500 Gazan pilgrims through Rafah to perform the Hajj.

The nearly nine-year Israeli blockade has plunged the Gaza Strip’s more than 1.8 million Palestinians into poverty. The destruction from three Israeli offensives over the past six years and slow reconstruction due to the blockade led the UN in September to warn that Gaza could be “uninhabitable” by 2020.

In late June, the Egyptian authorities opened the Rafah crossing for five days, allowing some 3,000 Gazans to leave the blockaded coastal enclave.

According to Gaza’s border crossing authority, roughly 25,000 people in Gaza — including some 4,000 medical patients — are now on the waiting list to leave the strip.