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Rafah Crossing and the Gaza-Egypt Wall

The Israel and Egypt − Gaza Strip barrier is a separation barrier first constructed by Israel in 1994 between the Gaza Strip and Israel. An addition to the barrier was finished in 2005 to separate the Gaza Strip and Egypt.
The fence runs along the entire land border of the Gaza Strip. It is made up of wire fencing with posts, sensors and buffer zones on lands bordering Israel, and concrete and steel walls on lands bordering Egypt.

“Any astute observer who has spent substantial time in the Gaza Strip knows that what Gazans desperately want and need are the freedom of movement and the right to export. This does not diminish the facts that eighty percent of Gazans receive UN food aid, and despite the media hyperbole on Gaza’s burgeoning economy, only one percent of the population is able to indulge in the Strip’s ‘luxury malls, hotels and restaurants’

Popularly characterized as ‘the world’s largest open-air prison,’ Gaza is a cruel joke for civilians trying to leave its borders. Imagine being in a locked room with no key, and on the other side you can hear someone jangling the keys–Egypt and Israel are the key holders to freedom. Palestinians must apply for an exit permit from either government, an arduous and bureaucratic process with no guarantees of a stamped approval.

At the end of May 2011, the interim Egyptian government decisively moved to ease the travel restrictions on Palestinians crossing into the Rafah border. Less than a month later, Egypt reduced the daily quota of Palestinians crossing the border from 600 to 400.

In the winter of 2010, a prominent community mental health organization invited me to Gaza City. I spent a galling six weeks in Cairo awaiting permission to enter Gaza. I submitted my application seven times to the Egyptian Foreign Ministry, and each time they came back unapproved. I was given no explanation other than it was not security related. I took the next big step to go visit the Mukhabarat (Egyptian Intelligence), the security agency that issues the final authorization, to inquire about the multiple rejections.

The Mukhabarat is a reputedly sinister place to which many taxi drivers will flatly refuse to drive their customers. I pleaded with the security officials to let me speak to someone inside. Three hours later, they allowed me to enter. Our discussion concluded with the officer offering me only a 14-day pass to Gaza. The original request was for 6 months.

By the spring of 2010, I finally gained entry into Gaza via the Erez border not without similar protracted approval. They thought that I was a Gazan-Palestinian student seeking study abroad. After my attorney sorted out my mistaken identity, it took an additional four weeks for the Ministry to issue me an approval to enter Gaza. Altogether, it took me four months to enter Gaza.

The border restrictions hurt the most vulnerable of Gaza society–the terminally infirm who are in dire need of life-sustaining treatment and medicine. Delays in crossing the border potentially put university students at risk of forfeiting their scholarships to study abroad. Egypt should exercise moral conscience by permanently opening the Rafah border.”
Diane Shammas (Diane holds a Ph.D. in international education and urban higher education, with a specialization in Arab American studies. She lived in the Gaza Strip in 2010 and 2011, and taught at the local university).

The Gaza-Egypt wall was toppled in 2008 so Egypt began constructing a huge metal wall in 2009 along its border with the Gaza Strip to cut smuggling tunnels. The metal wall, between 20 to 30 meters deep underground when completed would obstruct the flowing of water in the joint aquifer between Sinai and Gaza, which is already suffering from many problems including lack of water, pollution and mismanagement. However in April 2011 Egypt halted construction of the underground steel wall.

In Cairo, the Egyptian Administrative Judiciary Court of the State Council said it is not authorized to consider the case of suspending the decision of building a barrier between Egypt and the Gaza Strip. According to the Court verdict’s reasons, all the decisions taken or related to opening or closing the Rafah border crossing and building barrier are related to Egypt’s foreign relations and not considered a judiciary matter.
The court stressed its belief for the right of every Palestinian to live a better life by providing basic needs.
It is worth mentioning certain Egyptian activists filed a lawsuit to cancel the decision of building an Egypt-Gaza Barrier. (Arabia msn News)
And Allah knows best!

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