Despite the occasional arrival of humanitarian aid to the residents of the Gaza Strip from several different countries, including the Gulf States, through the Rafah Crossing, Egypt still maintains the strict closure of Gaza’s sole connection to the outside world.
The Miles of Smiles 28 aid convoy, consisting of delegations from different Arab and non-Arab countries, is one such exception that arrived in Gaza on Sunday. It is the most recent convoy to enter through the Rafah Crossing between the besieged enclave and Egypt.
From time to time, Egypt does open the Crossing for pilgrims leaving or returning to the Strip. However, Gaza residents who are abroad usually have to wait in Egyptian incarceration for an unlimited amount of time until the Crossing is opened for pilgrims or in case of emergency.
Hundreds of Palestinians from Gaza have lost their work contracts or lost their businesses abroad because they travelled to Gaza to visit relatives or spend holidays with families, and then could not leave. The same happened to hundreds of Palestinian students studying abroad.
A large number of Palestinian patients, who are in urgent need of treatment abroad, are stuck waiting to leave. Many have died while waiting to cross through Rafah. People who urgently need to travel have carried out sit-ins at the Crossing on numerous occasions.
The Palestinian interior ministry in Gaza said that more than 15,000 residents have applied to travel through the Crossing. About a month ago, the ministry announced it is no longer accepting applications because Egypt opens the Crossing only for a few days once every two or three months.
Some people can travel through the Eretz Crossing between Gaza and Israel, but Israel also enforces many restrictions and the people who travel put their own security at stake. Israel does not allow everyone to travel and many times arrests travellers, including patients, on their way through Eretz.
The new Egyptian president, Abdul-Fattah Al-Sisi, who closed the Rafah Crossing after carrying out the military coup last July against the first freely elected president, Mohamed Morsi, has problems with Hamas, which has ruled Gaza for years, because of the Islamic resistance movement’s close relations with his enemy—the Muslim Brotherhood.
Hamas conceded control over the Strip for a national reconciliation government last month, but even though Al-Sisi and his new regime have good relations with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and other officials in the new government, he has not opened the Crossing.
Egypt claims that the closure of the Crossing is based on national security, and Egyptian mass media have claimed several times that Gaza’s residents, mainly from Hamas, have carried out or had links to terrorist acts in Egypt. None of these claims have ever been proven.
During the discussions over the reconciliation government, Fatah officials said that Egypt had promised to open the Crossing when an agreement was reached. However, after the agreement was finally reached, Egypt denied any understanding ever took place with Fatah.
Following is a clip is made by activists personifying the tragedy of the Rafah Crossing through the death of a Palestinian woman: