CAIRO: The Rafah border crossing will be opened for two days next Tuesday to allow Palestinians in Gaza to enter Egypt and vice-versa.
Palestinians currently in Egypt will be allowed to return and Gazans seeking medical treatment, studying abroad or holding foreign passports will be allowed to enter Egypt.
Egypt will consider extending the opening of the crossing for an additional amount of time if there are still people that need to cross, which is what happened last time the crossing was opened both ways.
The last two-way opening of the crossing was Aug. 15, when 2,144 Palestinians left Gaza for Mecca, Saudi Arabia in order to perform the Umrah (lesser pilgrimage) during Ramadan, which is a time that is considered significant for the lesser pilgrimage.
Palestinian pilgrims continue to return to Gaza through the crossing, with the Palestinian Maan news agency reporting that 145 pilgrims returned to Gaza via the crossing on Tuesday night. About 1,450 of the pilgrims have returned to Gaza.
The crossing was also opened in one direction for two days at the end of August allowing Palestinians to return to Gaza only, but not allowing others to enter Egypt.
The Gaza Strip has been under a blockade for over two years now since Hamas had wrestled sole control of the territory from rivals Fatah who now head the Palestinian Authority only in the West Bank.
The Rafah crossing has been closed since then but opened intermittently on a temporary basis in stretches of between three and five days at a time. Only people and medical aid are allowed through the Rafah crossing with other forms of aid having to go through the Israeli controlled Karem Abu Salem crossing.
The continued closure of the crossing and the resulting blockade has led to the rise of a smuggling industry working via tunnels beneath the Egypt-Gaza border. Goods of all kinds are transported via the tunnels and occasionally weapons as well.
However, since January Egypt has been installing a new US-provided surveillance system aimed at detecting tunnels along the 13 km stretch of border between the two territories.
In July an American military delegation visited the crossing to observe the progress on the new surveillance system that includes underground cameras and radar scanners trailing along the shared border.