Palestinian Arabs protest at the Rafah border crossing
Palestinian Arabs protest at the Rafah border crossingAbed Rahim Khatib/Flash 90

Egyptian authorities have decided to open the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza from Monday until Thursday next week to allow the passage of Muslim pilgrims traveling to Saudi Arabia for the Hajj pilgrimage, the Ma’an news agency reported on Wednesday.

Hisham Adwan, a spokesperson for the borders committee in Gaza, was quoted as having said that Egyptian authorities had decided to open the crossing for four days next week in order to allow 2,500 Palestinian Arabs to leave Gaza for Egypt in order to take a flight to Saudi Arabia for the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca.

Egyptian authorities have kept the Rafah crossing virtually sealed since a terrorist attack in the Sinai Peninsula in October 2014, though they have temporarily reopened the crossingseveral times since that attack, mostly for the passage of humanitarian cases.

Egypt blames Hamas terrorists for providing the weapons for the lethal 2014 attack, which killed 30 soldiers, through one of its smuggling tunnels under the border to Sinai. Hamas denies the allegations.

Next week’s opening of the Rafah crossing will mark the first time the crossing has been opened for more than five months, according to Ma’an.

In addition to keeping the crossing closed, Egypt has shut down the smuggling tunnels between Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula, which terrorists use to smuggle weapons, and has also built a buffer zone along the border, expelling large numbers of people from their homes for that purpose.

Egypt’s ties with Gaza’s Hamas rulers have been strained under President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, but Hamas has been attempting to improve ties.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh met in Cairo with Egyptian officials several months ago to discuss ways to improve the strained relations.

Last month, Hamas’s chief of financial affairs said the group and Egypt had reached an agreement to improve commercial exchanges and increase fuel supply to Gaza.