Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Egypt opens border with Gaza for two days

CAIRO, March 18 (RIA Novosti) - Egypt has opened its Rafah border crossing point with the Gaza Strip for two days to students, foreigners and people requiring medical treatment, regional media said on Wednesday.

Israel and Egypt first closed their borders with the Palestinian enclave after the radical Islamic movement Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in June 2007. The blockade has led to a drastic deterioration in the humanitarian situation in the enclave of some 1.5 million.

According to a Palestinian National Authority (PNA) official at the crossing, students and foreigners can leave the enclave, and people receiving medical aid in Egypt can travel both ways. The Rafah crossing was also opened for two days on February 22.

The humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip deteriorated drastically after a three-week offensive by Israel in December-January which saw some 1,300 Palestinians killed and 5,000 injured. Around 50,000 people were also made homeless by the attack, which Israel launched to try to put a stop to the firing of homemade rockets by Palestinian militants at southern Israel from the enclave.

International donors, including Russia, recently pledged some $5 billion in aid for Gaza. However, the continuing blockade and a refusal by many donor countries to deal directly with Hamas have so far prevented the humanitarian supplies from reaching the enclave.