Nearly 2,000 people crossed into Egypt from the Gaza Strip and 882 Palestinians stranded in Egypt since the border closed were finally able to return home as Egypt allowed the Rafah crossing to open for 48 hours as a “goodwill gesture” in advance of Ramadan.
Gaza has been under a nearly complete lockdown since Hamas seized control of the strip in June of last year. Gazans have faced considerable shortages since then, and while a ceasefire with Israel two months ago has opened the border with Israel to certain goods, Israel regularly shuts the crossings for several days at a time in retaliation for rocket attacks from militant groups, and shortages remain an issue.
The Gaza-Egypt border last opened in January, when a series of blasts leveled a portion of the border wall. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians poured into the Sinai Peninsula, buying enormous amounts of the basic goods that were in short supply from the blockade. Egypt finally resealed the border after 11 days, following warnings from Israel that they expected it to “solve the problem” of an open border.
The closure has spawned a lucrative smuggling business between Egypt and Gaza, though in June the US Army began training the Egyptian military to find and destroy smuggling tunnels.