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Egypt to Permanently Open Rafah

Cairo plans to permanently open the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Sinai amdist a chill in Egypt-Israel relations.
By Gabe Kahn.
First Publish: 4/29/2011, 2:50 PM / Last Update: 4/29/2011, 3:07 PM

The Rafah crossing will be permanently opened in 7-10 days Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Elarby told Al Jazeera on Thursday.

The move comes as relations between post-Mubarak Egypt and Israel appear to be taking a dangerous turn.

The Egyptian pipeline carrying gas to Israel was blown up early Wednesday by terrorists leaving Israel, who gets 40% of its natural gas from Egypt, is scrambling to replace shortfalls even as Egyptian interior officials seek to retroactively hike the price the Jewish state pays for its gas.

Gas exports to Israel have long been controversial among Egyptians who overwhelming view Israelis negatively. A recent poll conducted by a research center in the US indicates 54 percent of Egyptians want to cancel the treaty with Israel.

Protests to that effect were staged in Egypt on Wednesday.

And now Egypt plans to open the Rafah crossing immediately after having knowingly brokered a deal between Hamas and Fatah its new leaders knew would be unacceptable to Israel.

The Rafah crossing was closed by Egypt under Mubarak following the 2007 Hamas takeover of Gaza as a means of isolating the terrorist organization.

Smuggling munitions from Sinai to Gaza via smuggling tunnels, and the smuggling of prospective terrorists to Iran and Hizbullah for paramilitary training, has been a pervasive problem since the 2007 Hamas takeover of Gaza.

Nabil did not address how (or if) Egypt's ruling junta planned to address these concerns once the crossing is reopened.

The Rafah border was temporarily opened during riots that erupted throughout Egypt in February, which led to the ousting of Hosni Mubarak.

"Egypt has decided to reopen the border and it will allow up to 300 people from the Gaza Strip to exit each day," Hamas official Ghazi Hamad said at the time.

A significant portion of those allowed into Egypt were Hamas terrorists going to stoke the fires of violence in Egypt's revolution.

Israel has not yet responded to Egypt's announcement.