The Egyptian authorities opened the Rafah Border Crossing for two days this week, allowing Palestinians to cross into and out of the besieged Gaza Strip. Difficulties arose, however, in distinguishing between those with urgent travel needs and those whose need is not so urgent, PLS48.net reported on Friday.
The Egyptians insisted on Thursday that the Palestinian authorities in Gaza should give priority to those who have bribed officials on both sides of the border. With more than 30,000 people needing to travel for medical, educational or employment purposes, the officers in charge on the Palestinian side of the border expressed their concern that Egypt insisted on letting the non-urgent cases go through first.
With such a backlog of travellers due to the siege-related closure of the border by Egypt, Palestinians wishing to cross the border need to register with the ministry of the interior in Gaza City to allow officials to prioritise and facilitate the crossing. When the border opened on Wednesday, the Palestinian officials were surprised by the Egyptians’ insistence on giving priority to the people with non-urgent travel needs. Altogether, around 400 people used the Rafah Crossing on that day.
On Thursday, after the passage of around 100 travellers, the officials in Gaza said they were again surprised that Egyptians insisted that “enlisted” travellers must pass before the others; that is the euphemism for those who have paid hefty bribes to corrupt officials. The Palestinians refused, so the Egyptians closed the crossing for seven hours until they relented. Only 747 people were able to cross the border, including those who had paid bribes as well as Egyptian passport holders stranded in Gaza.
According to the authorities in Gaza, less than two per cent of those who are in urgent need to travel could use the Rafah Crossing over the two days.