Egypt opens Gaza border for Ramadan

Lester Mason
May 18, 2018

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ordered on Thursday that the Rafah border crossing with the Gaza Strip be opened for the whole of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, he said on his official Twitter account.

The Rafah crossing is Gaza's main gate to the outside world but has only had sporadic openings since the 2013 removal of Egypt's elected Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, a high-ranking member of Hamas' parent group, the Muslim Brotherhood. It opens for short periods usually only to allow patients to access treatment in Egypt or further afield.

His announcement late on Thursday comes just days after Israeli forces shot and killed 59 Palestinians and injured more than 2,700 during mass protests along the Gaza border.

The protest escalated Monday as the USA opened its embassy in Jerusalem.The demonstrators charged fences separating Gaza from Israel, tearing down sections of the wire barrier and throwing rocks.

Egypt has relations with both Israel and the Hamas movement in Gaza.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniya paid a brief visit on Sunday to Egypt, where he met with the director of the country's intelligence services Abbas Kamel.

"I have instructed the concerned agencies concerned to take the necessary steps to keep the Rafah border crossing open throughout the holy month of Ramadan in order to ensure the easing of the burdens on the brothers in the Gaza Strip", Sisi said.

But critics argue it amounts to collective punishment of the enclave's residents, with 47% suffering from food insecurity, according to United Nations figures.

The Rafah crossing is Gaza's only gateway to the outside world not controlled by Israel.

At an Israeli checkpoint early Friday, Palestinians were crossing from the West Bank town of Bethlehem to the first weekly prayers of Ramadan at Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque compound.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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