Phone-calls between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Egyptian authorities have resulted in the Rafah border’s remaining open until Wednesday, according to the Palestinian Embassy in Cairo.
The extension in opening the border crossing is “to ease the burden on families prior to the holy month of Ramadan”.
Spokesperson Naji Al-Naji told Daily News Egypt the border will be open in both directions, to allow the transfer of people and goods between Egypt and the Gaza Strip.
The three-day opening of the Rafah border has been complicated by failing computer systems as telecommunication networks were disrupted Sunday due to military activity in the North Sinai region, Palestinian news agency Ma’an reported. The Egyptian army has been engaged in a prolonged campaign against a militant insurgency.
Asked about difficulties faced at the border, another press officer at the Palestinian Embassy told Daily News Egypt that passage is typically very slow. On Sunday, however, there was more movement than on Saturday, the first day of the opening. The official put the figure at around 900 individuals moving between both territories on Sunday.
The opening of the border by Egyptian authorities happens very occasionally, and measures have become stricter following the ouster of former president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013.
The border was last opened for three days from 27-29 May, but only in one direction, allowing over 1,000 Palestinians to return to the Gaza Strip. Throughout the Gaza war in the summer of 2014, the border was opened once for humanitarian cases.
According to Ma’an agency, only seven Palestinians had passed through the terminal as of noon this Sunday, with 573 Palestinians having crossed from Gaza into Egypt and 246 crossed from Egypt to Gaza on Saturday. Some 57 truckloads of cement and construction materials had transferred, as part of Qatari support for the reconstruction of the besieged strip.
Maher Abu Sabha, the head of Gaza’s border authority has called on the Egyptian authorities to permanently open the Rafah border. He stated that there are around 15,000 Palestinians with humanitarian reasons to travel, including 4,000 patients and 3,000 students, as reported by Anadolu Agency.
When asked whether the current re-opening of the border is a sign that relations between Egypt and Hamas are improving, the embassy official in Cairo responded that the move was primarily the result of personal intervention by President Abbas.
“Right now it is not clear what the situation but feels that there are many changes coming soon,” the official said.
A decision by an Egyptian court earlier in June to cancel a previous ruling to designate Hamas a terrorist group was seen by some as an indication that terms were becoming better between the two authorities. Hamas spokesman Samy Abu Zahri said at the time that the court’s decision “was a correction to a previous mistake”, and that it would have “positive repercussions on the relationship between Egypt and Hamas”.
Hamas was labelled a “terrorist organisation” on 28 February. The State Lawsuit Authority appealed the court’s decision, however, calling for its abolition as it violates the law relating to the designation of “terrorist entities”.
Egypt designated the military wing of Hamas, the Al-Qassam Brigades, as “terrorists” in January.
Relations between Egypt and Hamas have greatly deteriorated over the past two years, as the movement has been accused of its involvement in Egypt’s internal situation. Hamas has also been frequently being accused by the Egyptian government of facilitating militancy in Egypt. Hamas, however, denied such accusations and stressed that the group does not interfere in Egyptian affairs.