On Saturday, May 28, Egypt permanently opened the Rafah border crossing with the Gaza Strip.
This is not the first time the crossing has opened since the Israeli-Egyptian blockade of the strip began in June 2007 following Hamas’ takeover. The most notable opening was in January 2008 when Gazans literally broke the border fence separating the strip from Egypt. During the 2009 Israeli invasion of Gaza, Egypt also allowed a larger number of Gazans to pass through the border; mostly wounded civilians who were taken to Cairo hospitals for treatment.
Opening the border is a huge foreign policy shift for Egypt, and while many in Israel are nervous about the security implications, this move will also weaken Egyptian Islamist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, who have used Egypt’s close relationship with Israel to garner support. Israel worries that opening the Rafah crossing will allow more weapons to fall into the hands of Hamas. However, it will also allow Gazans access to many basic necessities and help address the growing humanitarian crises in Gaza.
About 450 people were able to pass through the border crossing, reports Al Masry Al Youm, with many Gazans happy about the prospect of being able to leave the Gaza Strip.
Intrestingly, the Israeli opposition party Kadima blames the Netanyahu government for opening of the Rafah border crossing on Netanyahu’s Likud party, saying that Netanyahu had failed to prevent Egypt from breaking the blockade agreement. Of course, this rhetoric is probably no more than domestic political rivalry.
Meanwhile, Palestinians living in Gaza will be able to enter Egypt for medical treatment or other personal reasons, while other commercial traffic will go through the crossings between Gaza and Israel.