Security forces in Egypt closed Rafah Crossing last Friday

Rafah Crossing. Photo: Eman MohammedMay 19, 2013. Egyptian security forces closed Rafah Crossing on Friday to travel of individuals in both directions, a day after seven security personnel were taken hostage in the Sinai. According to media reports, the re-opening of the crossing is being conditioned on release of the captives. Several hundred Palestinians are trapped on the Egyptian side of the crossing, including medical patients, pilgrims and students, who are waiting to return home. Egyptian police also closed the Nitzana Crossing this morning, connecting Egypt and Israel and used for the occasional transit of goods, including goods which are delivered to Gaza via Kerem Shalom Crossing.

On Thursday, gunmen took four soldiers and three police officers hostage, in an apparent effort to press Egypt to release detainees being held on suspicion of involvement in attacks in the Sinai, including the August attack on a police station in El Arish. According to media reports, Egyptian security officials, concerned the hostages might be taken to Gaza, also halted operation of at least some of the tunnels running under the Gaza-Egypt border.

Rafah Crossing serves as Gaza’s only connection to Egypt and thus to the outside world. It is the only crossing point operating without direct Israeli control. Israel limits passage at Erez Crossing, while restrictions at Rafah have mostly been lifted. Approximately 30,000 individuals travel via the crossing per month.