Rafah Crossing is the only pedestrian crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. Because of the closure Israel imposes on Gaza’s land crossings, and the ban on air and sea travel to and from Gaza, Rafah Crossing has become a vital route to the outside world for Gaza’s residents over the years. Since May 2018, and up until the coronavirus pandemic, the crossing was opened regularly for movement of people subject to criteria determined by Egypt. From May 2018 until the end of February 2020, a monthly average of 5,231 entries into Gaza and 6,610 exits was recorded at Rafah Crossing.
In March 2020, amid the pandemic outbreak, Rafah was closed and has only been opened on a handful of occasions since for movement of people in both directions.
After the implementation of the Disengagement in 2005, when the Agreement on Movement and Access (AMA) was implemented, the monthly average number of entries and exits through Rafah Crossing reached about 40,000. However, after the capture of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in June 2006, travel through Rafah was restricted, and the crossing was closed 76% of the time. In June 2007, after Hamas took over the Gaza Strip, Rafah was closed permanently except for random and limited openings by Egypt, which met only one-tenth of Gaza residents’ travel needs. During these openings, passage was allowed only for defined and limited categories: patients, religious pilgrims, foreign residents or residents of Gaza with foreign visas including students.
In June 2010, the events surrounding the flotilla to Gaza, Egypt announced it would open Rafah Crossing for travel on a daily basis. Passage remained limited to the above-mentioned categories. From June 2010 to January 2011, the monthly average number of exits and entries through Rafah reached 19,000 – 47% of the number of passengers traveling through Rafah 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, with certain restrictions on male passengers aged 18 to 40. Between November 2012 and May 2013, the crossing operated every day, and thousands of Palestinians travelled through it every month. In the first half of 2013, a monthly average of about 20,000 exits and 20,000 entries was recorded at the crossing, a similar figure to the number of travelers during the time the AMA was implemented. However, on July 5, 2013, following escalating violence in the Sinai desert and events inside Egypt, Egypt once again restricted travel through the crossing, shutting it down almost completely in October 2014.
In May 2018, Egypt reopened Rafah more regularly to travel from and to the Strip. Even when the crossing is open more regularly, only people who meet Egypt’s criteria may travel through Rafah, subject to preregistration. Getting permission to cross can take time and transit through the Sinai desert is arduous, and often dangerous. Israel’s policy is to forbid return to Gaza via Erez to people who exited the Strip via Rafah. Importantly, Rafah Crossing does not provide a solution for Gaza residents who need to access the West Bank and Israel.
Text was last updated in January 2022.