After four years and repeated demands from the United Nations, Egypt has re-opened the Rafah border crossing with the Gaza Strip, Al-Jazeera reports. Most of Gaza’s 1.5 million residents have been prevented from going abroad since the imposition of the blockade in 2007, as Rafah is the only crossing that does not pass through Israel. When the border was opened, nearly 400 Gazans were waiting at the crossing.
The Washington Post spoke to Musbah Mohamed Halawen, 59, who was traveling to have spinal surgery after a botched procedure in Gaza. "We are very happy Egypt is now in control of the border,” he said. And a "beaming" Hashna el-Reyes, who intended to fly to London on Sunday to visit her son, said, “Before, I felt very disappointed. There was no humanity. Now somehow I feel human.”
The Associated Press spoke to Khaled Halwaeh, a 28-year-old student who was headed to Egypt for a master’s degree in engineering at Alexandria University in Egypt. He said he had not been out of Gaza for seven years. "The closure did not affect only the travel of passengers or the flowing of goods. Our brains and our thoughts were under blockade," he said.
Yet the opening is not without restrictions. As Al-Jazeera notes, under the present rules all women and children under 18 years may leave, as well as all men over the age of 40 years. However, men between 18 and 40 will still require an Egyptian visa, a process that may take weeks, according to the New York Times. At this point there is no visa office in Gaza, although Egyptian authorities indicate their intention to open one.
Israel remains fearful of the border opening, the Times reports. “This is a dangerous development that could lead to the smuggling of weapons, explosives and Al Qaeda agents into Gaza,” Silvan Shalom, a deputy prime minister from the right-wing Likud Party, said onRadio.
While the lifting of the border most directly arises from the recent Egyptian revolution and the ending of policies of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, the Times finds that the border policy shift is a continuation of "something that began a year ago when Israel faced international condemnation after its commandos killed nine activists aboard a Turkish vessel trying to break the Israeli siege of Gaza."