Egypt to open Gaza border crossing twice monthly — report
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Egypt to open Gaza border crossing twice monthly — report

President Sissi said to order measure to 'lessen the suffering of Palestinian people' in the Strip

Palestinians wait for a travel permit to cross into Egypt through the Rafah border crossing on November 14, 2016, in the southern Gaza Strip. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)
Palestinians wait for a travel permit to cross into Egypt through the Rafah border crossing on November 14, 2016, in the southern Gaza Strip. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

The Egyptian government plans to open the Rafah border crossing with Gaza twice a month, after years of traffic only being allowed through the border point intermittently, according to a report Monday.

Quoting top Egyptian security officials, the Ma’an Palestinian wire service said that the order had come directly from Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi to “lessen the suffering of Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip.”

Egypt has quietly cooperated with Israel in blockading the coastal enclave since the Islamist terror group Hamas came to power in elections in 2006, but occasionally opens the Rafah crossing for three days at a time.

Israel says the blockade is needed to prevent arms smuggling.

Palestinians wait for travel permits to cross into Egypt through the Rafah border crossing after it was opened by Egyptian authorities for humanitarian cases, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on February 11, 2017. ( AFP PHOTO / SAID KHATIB)
Palestinians wait for travel permits to cross into Egypt through the Rafah border crossing after it was opened by Egyptian authorities for humanitarian cases, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on February 11, 2017. ( AFP PHOTO / SAID KHATIB)

The changes, while still in their infancy, mark a significant departure from what has been a tough Egyptian crackdown since the military ousted then-president Mohammed Morsi, in 2013.

Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip and is an offshoot of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, enjoyed close relations with him and quickly fell into disfavor with the new government.

In recent months, Cairo has increased the number of people allowed to exit through the Rafah border crossing, Gaza’s main gateway to the outside world.

Since January, the crossing has opened in both directions twice.

Egypt has also begun to allow Gaza to import commercial goods through Rafah for the first time since 2013 and sent public signals that it is interested in improving relations.

The years of Egyptian restrictions, coupled with the Israeli blockade and three wars between Hamas and Israel, have devastated the Gazan economy.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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