CAIRO, Egypt, (AP) – Egypt will reopen its Rafah border crossing with the Hamas-run Gaza Strip for two days this week to allow hundreds of stranded on both sides to cross, a Palestinian diplomat in Cairo said Monday.
Rafah has been closed for nearly the entire time since the Hamas militant group took over Gaza a year ago. With the opening, which begins on Tuesday, Palestinians who need medical treatment or have Egyptian residency permits would be allowed to cross into Egypt, the diplomat, Nabil Amr, told reporters in Cairo.
Palestinians returning from abroad will also be allowed into Gaza from Egypt, he said, adding that the opening of the border was humanitarian decision in “response to appeals from Palestinians stuck” because of border closures.
The move followed talks on Sunday between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Egypt’s chief of intelligence Omar Suleiman on the Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts.
An Egyptian-brokered cease-fire between Hamas and Israel took effect in Gaza on June 19, though it has been marred by rocket attacks into Israel by the Islamic Jihad group that wounded two Israelis last week. That prompted Israel to close crossings between it and Gaza, though it re-opened one crossing on Sunday to cargo traffic, allowing a trickle of goods into the territory.
The truce does not apply to the West Bank, but violence there has spilled over into Gaza and threatened the agreement.
As part of the truce, the Palestinians demand the end of Israel’s yearlong seal of Gaza’s borders and an economic blockade that caused widespread shortages of basic humanitarian goods.
The Rafah crossing is the main gateway for Gaza’s 1.4 million people for travel abroad. In January, Hamas blew up the border wall between Egypt and Gaza, allowing thousands of people to move in and out for nearly two weeks before it was resealed. The incident seriously heightened tensions in the area.
Hamas has demanded the reopening of Rafah, but Israel has said it will not allow it until an Israeli soldier held captive by Hamas-allied Palestinian militants in Gaza is freed.