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What is Gaza's Rafah border crossing and why is it important?

October 24, 2023 at 2:32 pm

United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres holds a press confrence at the Rafah border crossing on October 20, 2023, in Rafah, Egypt [Stringer/Anadolu Agency]

The Rafah crossing is the main entrance and exit point to the Gaza Strip from Egypt. It has become a focal point of efforts to deliver aid to Palestinians since Israel imposed a “total siege” on Gaza on 9 October.

What is the latest on aid to the Gaza Strip? 

Humanitarian deliveries through Rafah began on 21 October after delays, even as UN agencies said they were not enough to meet the needs of the 2.3 million population. A third convoy of aid trucks entered the crossing from Egypt on 23 October.

About 34 trucks passed through the crossing daily on 21, 22 and 23 October, aid and security sources said. This is only four per cent of the quantity of aid delivered prior to 7 October this year.

READ: Third aid convoy crosses Egypt’s Rafah crossing to Gaza

UN officials say about 100 trucks would be needed each day to meet essential needs in densely populated Gaza, where stocks of food, water and fuel have run low.

Where is the Rafah crossing and who controls it? 

The crossing is at the south of the Gaza Strip, a narrow sliver of land wedged between Israel, Egypt and Gaza. Despite Rafah being technically under Palestinian and Egyptian control, Israel still dictates its terms and it has closed it during the previous assaults as well.

Why is the Rafah crossing so important now? 

In response to the cross-border infiltration by the Palestinian resistance on 7 October, Israel imposed a total blockade of Gaza, cutting off electricity and stopping supplies of food and fuel. The blockade leaves Rafah as the only route for humanitarian aid to Gaza.

Why is access across Rafah restricted by Egypt? 

Egypt has reinforced Israel’s blockade on Gaza through the years and closed or restricted access through the crossing. The coup government of President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi claims this is to protect the country from an Islamist insurgency that peaked after 2013 and has now largely been suppressed, however there have been no proven ties between Palestinians in Gaza and any unrest in Egypt.


Egypt has acted as a mediator between Israel and Palestinian factions during past conflicts and periods of unrest. But in those situations it has also locked down the border, allowing aid to enter and medical evacuees to leave, but preventing any large-scale movement of people.

Why are Arab States so reluctant to take in Palestinians? 

Arab countries have deep-rooted fears that Israel’s latest war on Gaza could spark a new wave of permanent displacements.

Egypt, the only Arab State to share a border with Gaza, and Jordan, which flanks the Israeli-occupied West Bank, have both warned against Palestinians being forced off their land.

For Palestinians, the idea of leaving or being driven out of territory where they want to forge a State carries echoes of the “Nakba”, or “catastrophe”, when many fled or were forced from their homes after Zionist militias massacred, raped and attacked them to make way for the creation of the state of Israel.

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The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.