Egypt reopens Gaza crossing after 4 days, as Israel eases restrictions

Closure of Rafah gateway came after violent border riots over weekend; IDF announces entry into Strip of further materials for international aid projects

Members of Palestinan security forces stand guard at the closed off Rafah border crossing to Egypt in the southern Gaza Strip, on August 23, 2021 (SAID KHATIB / AFP)
Members of Palestinan security forces stand guard at the closed off Rafah border crossing to Egypt in the southern Gaza Strip, on August 23, 2021 (SAID KHATIB / AFP)

RAFAH, Gaza Strip — Egypt on Thursday partially re-opened the Rafah crossing with the Gaza Strip, allowing one-way traffic into the coastal enclave as Israel eased import restrictions.

Rafah, Gaza’s only gateway to the outside world not controlled by Israel, was shuttered on Monday by Egypt, which gave no official reason for the move.

But it came after Gazans on Saturday staged protests and violent riots along the border with Israel, which saw the death of a member of the Hamas terror group, dozens of Palestinians injured, and an Israeli soldier left in critical condition from a gunshot wound.

Egypt, a key mediator between Israel and the Hamas Islamists who control the coastal enclave, has previously used Rafah closures as a punitive measure against the terror group. Hebrew media reports in recent days have said Egypt was furious with Hamas for breaking commitments to prevent violence at the border during Saturday’s mass rally.

Late Wednesday, Hamas’s interior ministry announced that Rafah would open to incoming traffic on Thursday and to two-way traffic on Sunday.

People had begun to cross after midday, an AFP journalist said.

Border protests and riots on Wednesday in southern Gaza left 20 Palestinians hurt following confrontations with Israeli troops, but the violence was more muted than on Saturday.

Palestinians run from tear gas fired by Israeli security forces along the border fence, east of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, on August 25, 2021. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

Hamas police made efforts to contain Wednesday’s unrest by preventing people from approaching the border fence.

In response, Israel permitted additional goods and materials to enter the Gaza Strip starting Thursday, Israel’s military liaison to the Palestinians said.

Border Police officer Barel Shmueli who was critically wounded in a shooting on the Gaza border, on August 21, 2021. (Border Police)

An additional 1,000 workers from the Gaza Strip will also be allowed into Israel, limited to those who have recovered from the coronavirus or been vaccinated, according to the liaison body, formally known as the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories.

“These civilian measures have been approved by the political echelon and are contingent upon continued preservation of security stability for the long term. An expansion of these measures will be considered in accordance with situational assessments,” COGAT said in a statement.

Israel has hit Hamas targets in Gaza with airstrikes twice in the last week, with no casualties reported.

Three months ago, an Egypt-brokered ceasefire ended 11 days of conflict between Hamas and Israel, the worst fighting between the two sides in years.

Palestinian terror group launched 4,360 unguided rockets and mortar shells toward Israeli population centers between May 10 and 21, according to the military and police.

Israel, in response to the rocket attacks, launched extensive airstrikes in the enclave, killing nearly 250 Palestinians, of whom the IDF said some 200 were combatants.

Emanuel Fabian and Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.

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