Egypt closed the Rafah border crossing with the Gaza Strip on Friday, preventing ambulances and passenger buses from leaving. Israel, meanwhile, continues to maintain its commercial gateway open, allowing in fuel, food, and medical supplies.
Also Friday, Egyptian security forces said they thwarted an attempt to smuggle 20 Grad rockets from the Gaza Strip into the Sinai region. The projectiles were apparently meant to be used in attacks against Israel from the peninsula.
“The Egyptian authorities notified us a short while ago that they are shutting the Rafah Crossing, after it had been partially open on Thursday, without explaining the reasons,” wrote Gaza’s Interior Ministry spokesman Iyad El-Bozom on his Facebook page Friday morning.
“The Interior Ministry is sorry about this Egyptian move. After the Borders Authority had prepared passenger buses and ambulances waiting for the border gate to open, we were surprised by this move, which represents contempt and disregard for the suffering of travelers and the injured,” El-Bozom wrote.
Egypt has significantly reduced the number of travelers allowed to enter it from Gaza since the overthrow of Muslim Brotherhood President Mohammed Morsi in June 2013, opening the Rafah border crossing to passenger traffic only sporadically. According to Gisha, an Israeli NGO dealing with freedom of movement in Gaza, last October, for the first time, more residents of the Strip entered Israel through the Erez Crossing than entered Egypt, as Israel loosened its entry restrictions.
Egypt has not allowed for a commercial border crossing with the Gaza Strip, despite repeated pleas by Hamas to allow the free flow of commodities which would render smuggling tunnels superfluous.
Since the start of Operation Protective Edge on Tuesday, Israel has allowed approximately 200 trucks to enter the Gaza Strip on a daily basis through the commercial Kerem Shalom border crossing. The trucks carry fuel for cars and or the local power plant, food products, and medical supplies. According to Gisha, Israel is restricting the entry of other commodities such as clothes, shoes and paper.
According to the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, the Kerem Shalom Crossing is currently operating under heavy security, after a Hamas terror tunnel was exposed and detonated not far from the crossing earlier this week.