Hordes of Gaza Arabs rushed through into Sinai Saturday morning, as Egyptian authorities opened the Rafiah crossing, this time on a permanent basis, they said. Egyptian officials said that the crossing operated smoothly on its first day, and Gaza Arabs interviewed by reporters praised the opening, calling Egypt “very brave” for the move.
The crossing is set to be open every day, except Fridays and holidays, between 10 AM and 5 PM. Women, and individuals under age 18 and over age 40 will be permitted to enter Egypt without a specific permit, while others will have to receive a visa. With that, Egypt prevented 23 Gaza Arabs from entering Sinai, as they were on a “no-cross” list, prevented from entering Egypt because of their connections to criminal or terrorist groups.
Two medical teams were stationed at the crossing, one to examine Gaza Arabs who claim to be seeking medical treatment in Israel, and a second to examine others to ensure they are not carrying communicable diseases.
It should be noted that the opening of the Rafiah crossing is a violation of previous Egyptian agreements with Israel. According to the agreements, Egypt is supposed to consult with Israel on the opening of the Rafiah crossing, and European Union officials are supposed to be present to ensure that no weapons or materials that could be used to build bombs and missiles are brought from Sinai into Gaza. In addition, Israeli troops are supposed to be able to observe the activity at the crossing via closed-circuit TV. None of these elements were included in the Egyptian move. Speaking to reporters, Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said that Israel “will obviously be looking to preserve security arrangements at the border and hope nothing will be done to allow Hamas to empower itself and to reinforce its terrorist infrastructures. The Israeli position has been made known to all relevant authorities, including in Egypt.”
Hamas spokesperson Abu Zaheri thanked the Egyptians for opening the crossing. “This is a step to destroying the siege on Gaza and will improve relations between Hamas and Egypt,” he said.
MK Nachman Shai (Kadima) said that “the opening of the Rafiah crossing completely upends the issue of a siege on Gaza, and removes from Israel an important tool to prevent the smuggling of weapons into Gaza and for the return of Gilad Shalit. This is a terrible failure of the government, which has lost the support of the international community and of Egypt in its attempts to isolate Hamas. Under these circumstances we should announce the complete end of the siege of Gaza, which has now been rendered toothless and ineffective,” he said.
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