For the first time since June 2007, Rafah Crossing opens for three days under PA supervision

Waiting at Rafah Crossing, Oct 2016. Photo by Gisha.

November 23, 2017. Rafah Crossing opened on Saturday, November 18, for movement of people in both directions. According to the official announcement, the crossing was slated to remain open for three days. On Sunday it was closed for several hours due to a security escalation in the area. Senior Palestinian officials reportedly announced that the Egyptian authorities had agreed to extend the opening of the crossing for two more days. Following the announcement, the Ministry of the Interior in Gaza published a list of 132 students awarded scholarships for university programs abroad that were scheduled to exit the next day. However, the crossing was not reopened on Tuesday as planned, and the students, as well as dozens of medical patients who were waiting to exit through Rafah, were turned away, unable to leave the Strip. Almost 30,000 people are currently on the waiting list to exit Gaza through Rafah. According to information obtained by Gisha, over the course of the three days (November 18-20), 1,800 exits to Egypt and 2,500 entries into Gaza were recorded.

Since the beginning of 2017, the monthly average of crossings through Rafah in both directions has been 2,764, compared with a monthly average of 3,520 in 2016, and 8,119 in 2014. In the first half of 2013, when the crossing operated regularly, some 40,000 exits and entries were recorded each month. Since 2013, the crossing has remained virtually closed. Prior to the opening of Rafah on Saturday, and throughout 2017, the crossing was open for exiting the strip on 17 non-consecutive days in total. The last time it was opened for travel out of Gaza was on August 29. On September 14, it was opened for travel into Gaza, mostly for worshippers returning from pilgrimage to Mecca. Unlike in previous times when the crossing was opened for travel, no trucks carrying goods and equipment entered the Strip.

For the first time since June 2007, when Hamas took over the Strip, Rafah Crossing was operated by Palestinian Authority officials and security was provided by its agencies.

Earlier this week, students held demonstrations near the crossing. The protestors, who clashed with police, demanded that students’ exit be prioritized to prevent them from losing hard-earned scholarships and places held for them by universities abroad.