GAZA – Egyptian authorities reopened on Wednesday the Rafah border crossing with the Palestinian Gaza Strip in both directions for four days, the official Palestinian Authority news agency WAFA said.
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, WAFA said.
Last opened on Feb. 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, as 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 organization Hamas took control of Gaza.
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 Feb. 9 and has killed 71 alleged militants and three soldiers and led to 1,800 arrests, an Egyptian military spokesman stated on Wednesday.
On Nov. 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 Oct. 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.