Rafah crossing. Photo by Gisha
Rafah crossing. Photo by Gisha

June 24, 2018. Rafah Crossing has been open for the longest consecutive run in five years and is expected to remain open for two more months. Egypt announced on May 12 that it would open the crossing for several days and then later updated that the crossing would remain open until the end of Ramadan. According to media reports, Egypt has now decided to keep the crossing open until Eid al-Adha (the Festival of the Sacrifice) which takes place at the end of August.

From May 12-31, 7,521 exits to Egypt were recorded at Rafah Crossing along with 1,244 entries into the Strip, making for an increase of roughly eighty percent in the number of crossings compared to April. During this time, Egyptian crossing authorities denied exit to 910 individuals. Figures received so far for June show another increase in movement through the crossing, with 5,808 exits to Egypt and 2,426 entries into Gaza recorded until June 18.

Despite the increase, the average number of exits per day the crossing was open remains low compared to the overall average in 2018. In 2017, the average number of exits per day the crossing was open was 696. In 2018, it dropped to 414. Since mid-May, the average number of exits per day has dropped to 350. Still, travel through Rafah remains much higher than the rate of transit abroad via Erez Crossing, where the monthly average of exits abroad has remained 349 since the beginning of the year.

Possible explanations for the relatively low numbers of people transiting through Rafah could be the fact that the announcement of the opening came as a surprise; entry visas to third countries held by many Gaza residents may have expired and deteriorating financial conditions may have forced others to forgo their trips. In addition, many recent travelers have experienced difficulties during their journey to Cario, which may be a deterrent. For the first time in recent memory, we note that entries to Gaza remain a fraction of exits, which seems to point to the fact that people don’t want to return to Gaza if they have a choice.

From the beginning of 2018 through June 18, Rafah Crossing was open on 54 days, allowing exit from Gaza on 49 of them. During this time, 20,330 exits to Egypt and 6,646 entries into Gaza were recorded.

In comparison, in 2017, the crossing was open on only 36 days throughout the entire year, allowing exit out of Gaza in 24. Only 16,706 exits from Gaza were recorded in the entire year, and 18,436 entries from Egypt.