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Egypt backtracks on opening Gaza border

Oil trucks enter the Gaza Strip from the Rafah border crossing as part of the triple agreement between Egypt, Hamas and Mohammed Dahlan, in Rafah, Gaza on 21 June 2017 [Ali Jadallah/Anadolu Agency]
Oil trucks enter the Gaza Strip from the Rafah border crossing as part of the triple agreement between Egypt, Hamas and Mohammed Dahlan, in Rafah, Gaza on 21 June 2017 [Ali Jadallah/Anadolu Agency]

Egyptian authorities announced yesterday that they had decided to postpone the opening of the Rafah border with the Gaza Strip after six soldiers were killed in the Sinai province, according to the Palestinian Information Centre.

Despite planning to open the crossing for four days from today, Hesham Udwan, head of the Commission of Crossings and Borders, notified Gazan authorities of the change after clashes between militants and the Egyptian army in the region.

Egypt had announced that the crossing was to be opened to allow urgent medical aid through to the besieged coastal enclave, particularly in light of the reconciliation of rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas.

Read: Six soldiers killed in North Sinai attack

The Rafah border has been largely closed for the past ten years, making Gaza the world’s largest open air prison. Earlier this month activist groups and the EU called for an end to the blockade, as Hamas agreed to surrender control of Gaza to the Palestinian Authority.

Israel responded to the demands by announcing conditions on which it would accept the reconciliation, namely that the factions would accept international agreements, recognise Israel as a state and that Hamas, which Israel considers a terrorist organisation, would disarm. The blockade is still in place.

The Strip has been declared “unliveable” by numerous human rights organisations, three years earlier than the UN had predicted. It is also currently facing an energywater and healthcare crisis. Residents are only receiving a maximum of two to four hours of electricity each day, making fresh water and sewage systems inoperable. An estimated 40 per cent of necessary medicines are also unavailable or will be depleted within a month, while patients requiring urgent treatment are prevented from leaving.

Last month, the Popular Committee Against the Siege on Gaza found that eight out of ten Gazans were living below the poverty line, with 44 per cent of the population unemployed.

Read: Israel reopens sole commercial crossing with Gaza

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