Rafah Crossing is located on the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt near the town of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. It serves mainly as a point of passage for people traveling between Gaza and Egypt.
Movement of People through Rafah Crossing Today
The crossing was opened by Israel in 1982 following the peace agreement with Egypt and was operated by the Israel Airports Authority (IAA). Until the outbreak of the Second Intifada at the end of September 2000, the Rafah Crossing was open around-the-clock, almost every day of the year. After the Oslo Accords took effect in 1994, the crossing was also used to transfer goods from various countries to the Gaza Strip. When the Al-Aqsa Intifada broke out, various restrictions were imposed on passage through Rafah, and its operating hours were reduced. As a result, the number of people traveling between the Gaza Strip and Egypt fell by more than half.
As part of the “disengagement” in 2005, the IAA withdrew its presence at Rafah and the transfer of goods into the Gaza Strip through Rafah ceased. The Agreement on Movement and Access (AMA), signed between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in November 2005, provided that Rafah Crossing would be operated by the PA and Egypt under the supervision of an EU border monitoring mission. Even once the agreement was implemented, Israel maintained substantial control of the crossing. This control stemmed from Israel’s supervision of those traveling through the crossing from a control room at Kerem Shalom; control of the Palestinian population registry which dictates who is allowed to travel through Rafah, and; Israel’s ability to decide to close the crossing by refusing to fulfill its part in the agreement and by blocking the European monitors’ access to the Gaza Strip.
Rafah Crossing operated according to the AMA until June 2006, and during this time an average of 40,000 people traveled through it in both directions every month. When Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was captured in June 2006, Israel closed Rafah and it remained closed 76% of the time during the following year. In June 2007, when Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip, implementation of the AMA was frozen and Rafah was closed except for a few days every month or two when it was opened by Egypt for a limited number of people – mainly patients and their companions, foreign nationals or residents, people with entry visas to other countries, and those who had received a special permit from Egypt. Following public outcry in May 2008 over news that recipients of Fulbright scholarships from Gaza could not reach their studies in the US because of the closure of Gaza, Egypt added students accepted into foreign study programs to the list of those allowed to travel through Rafah. Until mid-2010, these limited openings allowed for the passage of only 8% of those who needed to travel through the crossing.
In June 2010, following the flotilla incident, Egypt announced Rafah would open for the passage of people on a daily basis. Passage through Rafah continues to remain limited to the groups of people listed above, except for the direct coordination with Egypt, which was halted following the change of governance there starting in January 2011. Between June 2010 and January 2011, the monthly average of travelers in both directions through Rafah Crossing reached around 19,000, representing approximately 47% of the number of people who traveled through the crossing in the first half of 2006.
At the end of May 2011, Egypt announced the opening of Rafah Crossing on a regular basis for all residents of Gaza carrying Palestinian passports and identity cards. The crossing now operates seven days a week and between 30,000 and 40,000 people travel through it in both direction every month. When the AMA was in effect, an average of 40,000 people traveled through the crossing in both direction every month.
For more information:
To read the report “Rafah Crossing: Who Holds the Keys?”, March 2009, click here.
To read the Agreement on Movement and Access, November 2005, click here.
For multi-annual figures on movement of people through Rafah: Five Years of Closure
Graph: Movement of people through Rafah crossing