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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 September 2018

Egypt opens Rafah crossing to Gazans for Ramadan

Move comes after deadly Israeli response to Palestinian protests that has killed scores and wounded thousands 

Palestinians wait to travel to Egypt from Gaza through the Rafah border crossing on May 18, 2018. Ibraheem Abu Mustafa / Reuters
Palestinians wait to travel to Egypt from Gaza through the Rafah border crossing on May 18, 2018. Ibraheem Abu Mustafa / Reuters

Egypt will open the Rafah border crossing with Gaza for the entire month of Ramadan, the longest length of time since 2013.

The opening will "alleviate the burdens of the brothers in the Gaza Strip", Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi wrote on his official Twitter account.

His announcement late on Thursday comes just days after Israeli forces shot and killed 59 Palestinians and injured more than 2,700 during mass protests along the Gaza border. The high number of wounded has overwhelmed the Gaza health system.

Mr El Sisi said in televised comments earlier this week that Egypt had been communicating with Israel and the Palestinians in an effort "to stop the bloodshed". He urged Israel to "understand that the Palestinian reactions are legitimate and they should handle it very carefully".

The crossing has been open since last Saturday, so Mr El Sisi's announcement is technically an extension of the opening. Egyptian authorities said 510 people crossed on Wednesday, the majority coming from Gaza into Egypt.

On Thursday, 541 people crossed from Egypt into Gaza along with dozens of trucks carrying cement, steel, power engines and medical and food aid from the Red Crescent, the officials said.

The Rafah crossing into Egypt from the southern Gaza Strip. Adel Hana / AP Photo File)
The Rafah crossing into Egypt from the southern Gaza Strip. Adel Hana / AP Photo File)

In 2007, Hamas wrested control of Gaza by force, provoking the Israeli-Egyptian blockade that severely restricted the movement of most of Gaza's 2 million inhabitants.

The Rafah crossing is Gaza's main gate to the outside world but has only had sporadic openings since the 2013 removal of Egypt's elected Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, a high-ranking member of Hamas' parent group, the Muslim Brotherhood.

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Read more:

Arab League demands international probe into Israeli crimes

Palestinians left with only protests, and their bloody consequences

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