Egyptian authorities decided on Monday to open the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip for a week starting from Monday until the 7 September, to allow Palestinian pilgrims to cross from Egypt to Gaza, according to state media.
However, normal movement over the border crossing will be resumed from Tuesday 4 September, and movement from the Gaza strip to Egypt during the week will continue as usual as crossing the border will be only from Egypt to Gaza to allow the Palestinians to enter the strip.
The Egyptian side had closed the Rafah border due to security concerns in the Sinai Peninsula since July 2013, but it occasionally re-opened the crossing to allow Palestinians to travel to and from Gaza.
They had launched a campaign to destroy illegal underground tunnels, which have been vital in supplying Gaza residents with food, medicine, fuel, and building materials.
On 15 August, Egypt opened the Rafah border crossing for two days to allow the first group of Palestinian pilgrims to cross to Saudi Arabia.
An emergency state has been imposed in North Sinai and curfew hours in the cities of Rafah and Al-Arish were imposed following an attack in 2014. The last few weeks witnessed a rapprochement between the Egyptian regime and Hamas rulers of the Gaza Strip, and Egypt received lately several Hamas delegations to enhance relations between both sides.
Moreover, Egypt’s Ministry of Health announced on Monday that the number of deaths among Egyptian pilgrims in holy places in Saudi Arabia has reached 52 deaths, as a result of a cardiac arrest due to the crowd in the holy places.
Last year, 110 Egyptian pilgrims died during the pilgrimage season, whereby 105 of them died in Mecca, while the rest were in Medina.
The total number of Egyptian pilgrims this year is 78,000, including 36,000 pilgrims traveling through tourism companies, while the rest is divided between lottery pilgrims and pilgrims traveling via Egyptian civil society programmes.