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The border between Gaza and Egypt now open indefinitely




The border between Gaza and Egypt now open indefinitely
EGYPT / PALESTINE. Tuesday, February 9, 2021, Egypt decreed the opening of its border with the Gaza Strip "for an indefinite period". This post, the Rafah terminal near Yasser Arafat International Airport, is the only exit from Gaza not controlled by Israel.

This announcement comes at a time when representatives of fourteen Palestinian factions are beginning a reconciliation since an agreement initialed in November 2017. The future legislative and presidential elections - which should take place in May and July 2021 respectively - are the only item on the menu of the current discussions started Monday, February 8, 2021 in Cairo under the auspices of Egypt. The stakes are high and the modalities are far from being settled (who will monitor the polling stations? Which body will handle electoral appeals? Voting in East Jerusalem? ...). These will be the first elections organized since 2006 in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. 2.8 million voters will be asked to cast a ballot at the ballot box.

Hamas (Islamists) has controlled the Gaza Strip since a coup de force in 2007 after its victory in the January 2006 elections contested by Fatah. While the Fatah (secular) of Mahmoud Abbas, who holds the presidency of the Palestinian Authority, manages the West Bank.

The Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 forced Egypt to assume, willy-nilly, the role of guardian of this small Palestinian territory by controlling, together with the Palestinian Authority, the Rafah border crossing built in 1979 by the peace treaty signed between Egypt and Israel. Everything changed in 2007 with the uprising of Hamas and its seizure of power over these 360 km² and the crossing point.

 

The Rafah border crossing, a barometer of relations between Egypt and the Palestinians

This situation led Cairo, afraid to see an Islamist movement at its gates, to use the Rafah terminal as a safety valve, a true barometer of relations between Egypt and the Palestinians, opening the barrier allowing access to Egypt only from time to time and then only for a few days. Even a month, as in April 2018. Notably to let humanitarian aid through. Each exception brought a breath of fresh air to the Gazans, who thus escaped for a time the blockades both Israeli and Egyptian who cut them off from the world. In November 2020, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) estimated "the cumulative economic cost of the Israeli occupation, due solely to the prolonged closure and military operations in Gaza, during the period 2007-2018" at $16.7 billion, or about €14 billion and six times the 2018 GDP of Gaza (107% of Palestinian GDP). The UN agency estimated that the GDP of this territory would be 50% higher without closure.

Since the historic rapprochement between Hamas and Fatah in November 2017, the Palestinian Authority is once again managing this border crossing. However, there have been a few clashes, such as in January 2019 when Mahmoud Abbas ordered his officials to leave his surveillance and thus close the Rafah crossing point, this time on the Gaza side.
It had hardly reopened in recent months, notably to limit the spread of the coronavirus. 52,740 cases (for 530 deaths) were recorded in Gaza and 170,780 (9,751 deaths) in Egypt.

Frédéric Dubessy


Wednesday, February 10th 2021



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