CAIRO: Today is the third and last day of the scheduled two-way opening of the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza but an extension might be sought if needed.
The crossing opened Tuesday to allow some 5,000 Gazans seeking medical treatment, studying abroad or holding foreign passports to cross the border over the three-day period. Palestinians still returning from the pilgrimage in Mecca were also allowed to return to Gaza.
“We have received promises from the Egyptian authorities to facilitate the departure of as many travelers as possible, a Hamas Interior Ministry source told Xinhua Tuesday. Humanitarian aid has also been transported to Gaza via the crossing.
The Hamas government body in charge of the crossing announced that it was seeking an extension on the three-day opening to process more people. 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.
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 wrestled control of the territory from rivals Fatah who now form the Palestinian Authority 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.