Egypt Will Keep the Rafah Crossing With Gaza Open for Entire Month of Ramadan

Hamas leader: Recent protests do not mean giving up on the armed struggle

A Palestinian boy looks out a bus window as he waits to travel into Egypt through the Rafah border crossing, in the southern Gaza Strip May 18, 2018. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa
\ IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA/ REUTERS

Egypt will keep the Rafah crossing with Gaza open for the entire month of Ramadan. Egyptian President Gen. Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi made the announcement in a post on his official Facebook page on Thursday, saying he has ordered the relevant authorities to keep the crossing open to make life easier for the residents of the Gaza Strip.

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Keeping the crossing open will allow the passage of diesel fuel to the power plants in the Gaza Strip, which have been shut down for the past few days. It will also enable the transfer of construction materials, food and medicine.

According to Al Akhbar, a Lebanese newspaper, the opening of Rafah is part of an informal agreement reached between Hamas and the Egyptian intelligence services that will see the Gaza rulers return to the 2014 ceasefire reached with Israel, as well as reduce the number of protests in Gaza.

According to the report, Hamas promised to refrain from mass border protests and will cease placing explosives along the fence with Israel. In return, Egypt will open the crossing for a long period and will permit commercial and humanitarian goods to enter the strip.

Palestinians wait to travel to Egypt through the Rafah border crossing, in the southern Gaza Strip May 18, 2018
\ IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA/ REUTERS

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The leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Yahya Sinwar, said the choice of a popular struggle does not mean the organization is giving up on its armed struggle against Israel. Sinwar said in an interview with Hamas’ Al-Aqsa television channel that the “Palestinian resistance uses all the means it has available and all the means appropriate for a specific period.” Sinwar said the popular struggle in the March of Return is “a successful method and we will not give up the other methods.”

Nikolay Mladenov, the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, posted his own message in support of Sissi’s decision: “I commend President [Sissi’s] decision to maintain the opening of [the] Rafah Crossing between Gaza and Egypt during Ramadan. I hope the security situation will help deescalating the explosive atmosphere in Gaza.”

Thousands of worshippers from all over the West Bank are expected to come to the prayer services in the mosques on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem on Friday, the first Friday of the Ramadan month of fasting. The police brought in reinforcements and hundreds of police officers have been stationed in and around the Old City. Some of the roads in the area have been cordoned off to traffic. Starting Thursday and through the end of Ramadan in another month, Jews will not be allowed to go up to the Temple Mount during the afternoon hours, and will only be allowed to enter from 7:30 to 11 in the morning.

People wait to travel into Egypt, after the Rafah border crossing was opened for three days for humanitarian cases, in the southern Gaza Strip April 28, 2018
\ IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA/ REUTERS

The IDF has prepared for a renewal of the riots along the border fence with Gaza. After the confrontations this week in which tens of thousands participated, and in which 62 Palestinians were killed, the IDF now feels the number of participants on Friday will be much lower, similar to the previous few Fridays. The protests are also expected to be more moderate and less violent, and Hamas is thought to be trying to calm things down again. The Israeli security establishment expects the more severe confrontations today to come in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The IDF began putting the Kerem Shalom border crossing used for the transfer of goods back into operations, after it was closed last week when Palestinians set the natural gas pipeline and other equipment there on fire. After the crossing was reopened Thursday, some 600 trucks transferred goods to Gaza.

The flow of diesel into Gaza from Israel was also restarted on Thursday after this pipeline too was severely damaged by Palestinian rioters. The IDF slightly reduced the forces it had deployed along the border with Gaza and in the West Bank, after reinforcing them earlier in the week, but compared to normal times the Israeli forces are still deployed in much larger numbers than usual.