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Rafah Crossing: Lifeline for residents of Gaza Strip

Rafah Crossing: Lifeline for residents of Gaza Strip
23 Oct 2023 10:01

Abdullah Abu Zaid (Cairo) 

The world’s attention is turned to the Rafah Crossing (south of the Gaza Strip), as humanitarian aid awaits arrival for the residents of the area, and ongoing calls continue to open safe humanitarian aid corridors. According to sources that spoke with Aletihad, more than 200 trucks are currently waiting at the El-Arish Airport to cross into the Gaza Strip with vital relief. 

Rafah Crossing gained its strategic importance due to its geographic location as the only crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, which share a border that stretches approximately 12 kilometres. 

The crossing, located around 45 kilometres from Egypt’s El-Arish Airport, serves as the main and only outlet for the residents of the Gaza Strip to access the outside world. Amid the crisis, El-Arish Airport has become the main centre for the arrival of international humanitarian aid for people affected by the conflict. 

Rafah Crossing is one of three crossings, alongside the Beit Hanoun (Erez) and Kerem Shalom crossings, both of which are currently closed. Rafah Crossing operates on both the Egyptian and Palestinian sides, according to the 2005 Crossings Agreement.

Israel and the Palestinian Authority signed the “Crossings Agreement” in November 2005, mediated by the US and the European Union (EU), to regulate the movement and operation of the Rafah Crossing. 

The agreement stipulated that the Palestinian Authority would operate the crossing on the Palestinian side under the supervision of EU monitors. The agreement was signed following the implementation of Israel’s unilateral disengagement plan from the Gaza Strip in mid-2005, and the evacuation of the Israeli military presence at Rafah Crossing. 

Prior to that, the crossing operated according to the 1994 Cairo Agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, which subjected Rafah Crossing to joint Israeli and Palestinian control, while Israel retained security responsibility. 

From 1994 to 2005, the crossing was closed intermittently depending on the security situation, as was the case at the end of September 2000, and again between January 2004 and January 2005.

Today, Rafah Crossing is the only gateway to the Gaza Strip, and the main lifeline for its residents. The movement across the crossing has faced many obstacles since Hamas took control of the Strip in 2006, until the crossing was handed over to the Palestinian Authority in 2017.

According to the 2005 Crossings Agreement, Palestinians wishing to use the Rafah Crossing must first register with the Palestinian Authority around two weeks before their travel, after which the Palestinian Authority and the Egyptian authorities issue a decision regarding entry permission.

According to the Egyptian government, since October 7, 2023, the Egyptian authorities have not closed the crossing, but shelling near the crossing has rendered it inoperable.

Today, hundreds of trucks carrying humanitarian aid stand near the Rafah Crossing, waiting for it to open. 

On Saturday, 20 trucks managed to enter through the crossing; yet the road repair process, alongside Israel’s refusal to allow the entry of fuel, remain a hinderance to the continuous flow of aid.

Source: Aletihad - Abu Dhabi
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