BREAKING NEWS: Egypt to Open Rafah Border into Gaza Permanently

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Interim Foreign Minister of Egypt and Secretary General of The Arab League, Nabil Elaraby
Interim Foreign Minister of Egypt and Secretary General of The Arab League, Dr. Nabil el-Araby

by Dr. Ashraf Ezzat

 

AL JAZEERA – Egyptian state news agency quotes military sources as saying the border with Gaza will be opened starting from Saturday.

Dr. Nabil el-Araby Egypt foreign minister and the Arab League new secretary, couldn’t have picked a better time to announce the official opening of the Egyptian border with Gaza, especially after Bibi Netanyahu had bombarded the White House with new round of Isarel’s Grapes of wrath and returned to the Middle East to engage once more in his unabashed annexation of what’s left of Palestine land.

This decision had already been taken but only needed to be politically well timed and employed.

The news agency MENA said on Wednesday that Egypt’s new military rulers set the date for the opening of the crossing as part of efforts “to end the status of the Palestinian division and achieve national reconciliation”.

It said the Rafah border crossing would be opened permanently starting on Saturday from 9am to 9pm every day except Fridays and holidays.

“Sources in national security told Al Jazeera that the military intended to open up the border,” our correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin, reporting from the capital, Cairo, said.

“A senior member of Hamas visiting Egypt has also confirmed that they have been notified that military will open the border,” he said.

Al Jazeera’s Nicole Johnston, reporting from Gaza, said, “It comes with no surprise, people of Gaza and Egypt have been waiting for the news for the last few weeks.”

However, it will not be a full opening as there will be some conditions on exit.

“It will allow basically all women to leave Gaza, also children under the age of 18 years will be allowed to leave as well as men over the age of 40 years. However, those between the age of 18 and 40 years will require Egyptian visa,” she said.

“Visa would have to come from Ramallah. Sources in Hamas say, they have been told by the Egyptian authorities over the last few weeks that they [Egyptians] do intend to open some sort of representative office inside Gaza so that people can get the visa from there.”

Sharp departure from past

The decision is a sharp departure from the policies of former president Hosni Mubarak, who had restricted the movement of people and goods through the Egyptian-Gaza border.

Our Cairo correspondent said that “mechanisms in place at the border are going to be very important to watch”.

“In fact, one of the military’s first and important announcements was to abide by all international agreements that the previous government had committed to,” he said.

“One of those agreements that have been previously made had to deal with the opening of the border in Gaza, particularly that the Rafah border had to be under the supervision of European monitors. Our sources indeed tell us that European monitors have not been notified that the border will be opening on Saturday.”

 

Concerns for Israelis

Certainly this is going to cause some concerns for Israel particularly Europeans as to what mechanism is going to be put in place,” our correspondent said.

Sources at Rafah say that it is unlikely all the mechanisms needed to be put in place can actually arrive and assume the kind of flow that is suspected to come out, he said.

“One of the biggest problems for Gazans besides a shortage of food and supplies has been the psychological impact of not allowing 1.5m people to move freely. There’s no doubt if the border is opened freely for all, there’s going to be a massive influx of Palestinians who would want to get out for the first time since the seize was put in place.”

A year ago Israel significantly eased its restrictions on cargo entering Gaza, but it still severely limits entry and exit of Gazans through its northern crossing into Israel.

Gazans have circumvented the blockade by operating hundreds of smuggling tunnels under the 15km Gaza-Egypt border.

The tunnels have been used to bring in all manner of products, as well as people.

Israel charges Hamas has used the tunnels to import weapons, including rockets that can reach main population centres in Israel’s centre.

The crossing has been mostly closed, in line with an Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip, since 2007 when Hamas took control of the coastal territory.

Egypt will permanently open its Rafah border crossing starting from Saturday, the country’s official news agency reported, easing a four-year blockade on the Gaza Strip.

The news agency MENA said on Wednesday that Egypt’s new military rulers set the date for the opening of the crossing as part of efforts “to end the status of the Palestinian division and achieve national reconciliation”.

It said the Rafah border crossing would be opened permanently starting on Saturday from 9am to 9pm every day except Fridays and holidays.

“Sources in national security told Al Jazeera that the military intended to open up the border,” our correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin, reporting from the capital, Cairo, said.

“A senior member of Hamas visiting Egypt has also confirmed that they have been notified that military will open the border,” he said.

Al Jazeera’s Nicole Johnston, reporting from Gaza, said, “It comes with no surprise, people of Gaza and Egypt have been waiting for the news for the last few weeks.”

However, it will not be a full opening as there will be some conditions on exit.

“It will allow basically all women to leave Gaza, also children under the age of 18 years will be allowed to leave as well as men over the age of 40 years. However, those between the age of 18 and 40 years will require Egyptian visa,” she said.

“Visa would have to come from Ramallah. Sources in Hamas say, they have been told by the Egyptian authorities over the last few weeks that they [Egyptians] do intend to open some sort of representative office inside Gaza so that people can get the visa from there.”

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

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Ashraf Ezzat is an Egyptian born in Cairo and based in Alexandria. He graduated from the faculty of Medicine at Alexandria University. Keen not to be entirely consumed by the medical profession, Dr. Ezzat invests a lot of his time in research and writing. History of the ancient Near East and of Ancient Egypt has long been an area of special interest to him. In his writings, he approaches ancient history not as some tales from the remote times but as a causative factor in our existing life; and to him, it's as relevant and vibrant as the current moment. In his research and writings, Dr. Ezzat is always on a quest trying to find out why the ancient wisdom had been obstructed and ancient spirituality diminished whereas the Judeo-Christian teachings and faith took hold and prospered. Dr. Ezzat has written extensively in Arabic tackling many issues and topics in the field of Egyptology and comparative religion. He is the author of Egypt knew no Pharaohs nor Israelites. He writes regularly at many well-known online websites such as Dissident Voice and What Really Happened. Dr. Ezzat is also an independent filmmaker. His debut film was back in 2011 The Annals of Egypt Revolution and in 2012 he made Tale of Osiris a short animation for children. In 2013 his short The Pyramids: story of creation was screened at many international film festivals in Europe. And he is working now on his first documentary "Egypt knew no Pharaohs nor Israelites".