Gaza–Egypt border

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Gaza Strip

The Gaza—Egypt border is the 12 km long border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. Along the border exists a buffer zone with the Philadelphia Route, which is about 14 km long. The main border crossing is at Rafah. Another border crossing is the Israeli-controlled Kerem Shalom border crossing on the south-east point of Gaza, where it borders Israel and Egypt.

Buffer zone[edit]

In 1979, Israel and Egypt signed a peace treaty that returned the Sinai Peninsula, which borders the Gaza Strip, to Egyptian control. As part of that treaty, a 100-meter-wide strip of land known as the Philadelphia Route was established as a buffer zone between Gaza and Egypt.[1] The Philadelphia Route is a patrol road that runs along the border. Until 2000, the Israel Defense Forces(IDF) used a 20-40 meter wide buffer zone along the Gaza/Egypt border with a 2.5 to 3 meters high concrete wall topped with barbed wire.[2]

Israel built a barrier and a 200–300 meter buffer zone in the Philadelphia route during the Palestinian uprisings of the early 2000s. It was made mostly of corrugated sheet metal, with stretches of concrete topped with barbed wire.[3] The construction of the buffer zone required the demolition of entire blocks of houses at the main entrance to Rafah's central thoroughfare, as well as in the Al-Brazil block, Tel al Sultan and "Block O".[2]

2001-2003 expansion[edit]

Demolition of Palestinian houses in Rafah, March 2003

Since 2001, the IDF has routinely demolished Palestinian houses in Rafah, to create a buffer zone. In 2002, the IDF destroyed hundreds of houses in Rafah, needed for expansion of the buffer zone and the building of an eight meter high and 1.6 kilometers long metal wall along the border. The wall also extends two meters underground. The wall is built some eighty to ninety meters from the border, which doubled the width of the patrol corridor. After the metal wall was completed in early 2003, the demoltions continued and were even increased dramatically. According to Human Rights Watch, the wall was built far inside the demolished area to create a new starting point for justifying further demolitions.[2]

2004 expansion, Operation Rainbow[edit]

After the death on 12 May 2004 of 5 Israeli soldiers who were operating in the buffer zone, the Government approved on 13 May a plan to further expand the buffer zone, which would require the demolition of hundreds of homes.[4] The Israeli military recommended demolishing all homes within three hundred meters of its positions, or about four hundred meters from the border. The plan elicited strong international criticism.

On 14 May, a large IDF force entered the "Brazil block" of Rafah and in a heavy fighting, as reported by UNWRA, 12 Palestinians were killed and 52 injured. Israeli forces began demolishing houses in the Qishta neighborhood. and destroyed scores of houses.[2][5] Around midnight the same day, the Israeli High Court of Justice issued an interim order, temporarily barring the IDF from demolishing homes in the refugee camp, if the action was not part of "a regular military operation".[4] Nevertheless, the IDF continued the destruction of homes until 15 May 5:00 a.m. because of "immediate military necessity, a risk to soldiers, or a hindrance to a military operation",[6] raising the number of destroyed houses to just over 100.[5]

On 16 May, the High Court ruled that the IDF may destroy homes according to their needs; the IDF had pledged that it would refrain from unnecessarily demolishing houses.[7][8] The next day, Israel started "Operation Rainbow".

On 18 May, the Israel government declared that the plan to widen a buffer zone along the Egyptian border was cancelled,[9] while the same day the army massively invaded Rafah and continued its large-scale destruction.[5] On 19 May 2004, the United Nations Security Council condemned the killing of Palestinian civilians and the demolition of homes.[9]

Between 1 April 2003 and 30 April 2004, 106 were houses demolished in Rafah.[10] According to HRW, the IDF’s justifications for the destruction were doubtful and rather consistent with the goal of having a wide and empty border area to facilitate long-term control over the Gaza Strip.[2]

2005 expansion[edit]

An army plan to dig a moat along the border was dropped in 2005 after it was rejected by the Attorney General, because it required the destruction of 3,000 more homes in Rafah.[11][12] Instead, the IDF started the building of a 7–9 meters high (about 20–30 feet) concrete wall along the border in a 60-100 meter (about 200–300 feet) wide security strip, equipped with electronic sensors and underground concrete barriers to prevent tunneling.[11]

2009 Egyptian steel wall[edit]

In December 2009, Egypt started with help from the US, the building of an Egypt–Gaza barrier along the Gaza border, consisting of a steel wall.

2014 buffer zone expansion[edit]

In October 2014 Egypt announced that they planned to expand the buffer zone between Gaza and Egypt, following an attack that killed 31 Egyptian soldiers.[13] The expanded zone would reach 500 meters into Egypt and extend the 13 kilometers of the border.[14] The expanded buffer zone is the latest in a string of efforts by Abdel Fattah el-Sisi the President of Egypt to thwart the Gaza Strip smuggling tunnels.[15]

Following the announcement of the expanded buffer zone many residents voluntarily left the area. Ibrahim Mahlab the Prime Minister of Egypt announced that any residents unwilling to move willfully would be forcefully removed from their homes.[16] In total 1,100 families will need to be evacuated from their homes.[13]

On 17 November Egypt announced that the buffer zone would be doubling to 1km due to the longer than expected tunnels discovered,[17] in addition to a night time curfew for the area.[18] The total cost of this phase of the buffer zone is expected to cost $70 million.[19]

Rafah Border Crossing[edit]

Rafah Border Crossing

The Rafah Border Crossing lies on the international border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip that was recognized by the 1979 Israel–Egypt Peace Treaty and confirmed during the 1982 Israeli withdrawal from the Sinai Peninsula.

The crossing was managed by the Israel Airports Authority until Israel evacuated Gaza on 11 September 2005 as part of Israel's unilateral disengagement plan. It subsequently became the task of the European Union Border Assistance Mission Rafah (EUBAM) to monitor the crossing.

In 2005 when Israel decided to pull out of the Gaza Strip, Israel and Egypt reached an agreement regarding the border, based on the principles of the 1979 peace treaty. The agreement specified that 750 Egyptian border guards would be deployed along the length of the border, and both Egypt and Israel pledged to work together to stem terrorism, arms smuggling, and other illegal cross-border activities.[1] In September 2005, following Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, control of the Philadelphia route was handed over to the Palestinian National Authority. Under an agreement reached in November 2005, EUBAM was responsible for monitoring the Rafah Border Crossing. From November 2005 until July 2007, the Rafah Crossing was jointly controlled by Egypt and the Palestinian Authority, with the European Union monitoring Palestinian compliance on the Gaza side.

The crossing reopened with EUBAM monitors on 25 November 2005, and operated daily until 25 June 2006 (except for one day), when the crossing was closed after Palestinians attacked the Kerem Shalom crossing point and captured an Israeli soldier.[20] The crossing was infrequently reopened after this attack.[20]

In June 2007 the Rafah Crossing was closed by the Egyptian authorities after the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip. Due to the lack of security the EU monitors pulled out of the region, and Egypt agreed with Israel to shut down the Rafah Crossing.[1] During the Battle of Gaza, 6,000 Palestinians took refuge from the fighting across the Egyptian border. They were stranded on the Egyptian side of Rafah after Hamas took power and were prevented by Hamas from returning to the Gaza Strip.[21] Israeli and Egyptian diplomats tried to convince Hamas to allow these Palestinians to peacefully use the Kerem Shalom crossing to return home. However, on 5 July 2007, according to Israeli officials, Hamas refused to allow the crossing to be used and threatened to attack the crossing with mortars and gunfire, even at the cost of killing thousands of Palestinians.[21]

On 22 January 2008 after Israel imposed a total closure on all crossings to the Gaza Strip, a group of Hamas demonstrators attempted to force open the door of the Rafah Crossing. They were beaten back by Egyptian police and gunfire erupted. That same night Hamas militants set off 15 explosive charges, demolishing a 200-metre length of the metal border wall. After the resulting Breach of the Gaza-Egypt border, many thousands of Palestinians, with estimates ranging from 200,000 to 700,000, crossed into Egypt to buy goods.[22][23] Palestinians were seen purchasing food, fuel, cigarettes, shoes, furniture, car parts, and generators.[24][25]

The border was closed again by Egypt with Hamas's cooperation, except for travelers returning home, on 3 February 2008.[26][27][28] At this time, many of the Palestinians who had been stranded on the Egyptian side of the border following the Battle of Gaza are believed to have taken the opportunity to return to the Gaza Strip.[citation needed]

On 1 June 2010, in the midst of international uproar following Israel's attack on a relief boat, Egypt announced it was opening the border crossing.

On May 28, 2011, the Rafah border was opened for Palestinians to cross into Egypt.[29] Most travel restrictions were dropped, though men between the ages of 18 to 40 entering Egypt must apply for visas and others need travel permits. Soon after the revolution, Egypt’s foreign minister, Nabil el-Araby, opened discussions with Hamas aimed at easing the travel restrictions and improving relations between the two. Even though passenger restrictions were loosened, the shipment into Gaza of goods remains blocked.[30] In the first five hours after the opening, 340 people crossed into Egypt.[31]

However in mid-June 2011 the crossing was closed for several days and after that only a few hundred were allowed to cross each day compared with 'thousands' who applied to cross each day. Egypt reportedly agreed to allow a minimum of 500 people to cross each day.[32]

On 5 July 2013, in the wake of Islamist attacks on security forces in the Sinai following the overthrow of Mohamed Morsi, the border crossing was closed for several days by the Egyptian Army. It was later reopened for four hours each day. After the August 14th clashes, the border crossing was closed 'indefinitely'.[33]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Shen, Nina (2008-01-25). "Gaza: The Basics. Some history and background on the Gaza Strip". Slate.com. Retrieved 2011-05-28. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Razing Rafah — Mass Home Demolitions in the Gaza Strip, pp. 27-28 and 52-66 (PDF text version) on [1], Summary:. The report on refworld:. Human Rights Watch (HRW), October 2004
  3. ^ We Are No Longer Able to See the Sun. Andrew Rubin, Al Ahram Weekly, 7 July 2007
  4. ^ a b High Court to renew debate on IDF house demolitions in Rafah. Haaretz, 14 May 2004
  5. ^ a b c Supplementary Appeal for Rafah. UNWRA, May 2004
  6. ^ Razing Rafah, par. Map 5 : IDF Operations in Rafah May 2004, Box 3 — Destruction in Rafah: Shifting Justifications. HRW, October 2004
  7. ^ Court rejects petition to prevent further Rafah demolitions. Haaretz, 16 May 2004. On web.archive.org/
    The three-member High Court panel said that the IDF was entitled to carry out such demolitions along the Philadelphi route for security reasons, "according to operational needs" or if the military determined that soldiers' lives were in danger.
  8. ^ Rafah residents flee their homes. Maariv, 16 May 2004. On web.archive.org/
  9. ^ a b Demolitions in Gaza to end: Israel tells US. AFP, 20 May 2004
  10. ^ PCHR, Uprooting Palestinian Trees And Leveling Agricultural Land – The tenth Report on Israeli Land Sweeping and Demolition of Palestinian Buildings and Facilities in the Gaza Strip 1 April 2003 – 30 April 2004 On [2]
  11. ^ a b Army building new Gaza barrier. Ynet, 14 May 2005
  12. ^ Israel changes anti-smuggling tactics. Associated Press/USA Today, 2 March 2005
  13. ^ a b Egypt begins Gaza border evacuation to create security buffer - Retrieved 29 October 2014
  14. ^ Egypt to Create Buffer Zone Along Gaza Border - Retrieved 29 October 2014
  15. ^ Egypt to clear residents from Gaza border - Retrieved 29 October 2014
  16. ^ Egypt clears Gaza border area to create security buffer - Retrieved 29 October 2014
  17. ^ Egypt to expand buffer zone with Gaza after longer tunnels found - Retrieved 17 November 2014
  18. ^ 10 civilians killed by mortar fired at homes near Gaza-Egypt border - Retrieved 19 November 2014
  19. ^ First phase of Egypt-Gaza buffer zone to cost $70 million
  20. ^ a b "The Agreement on Movement and Access One Year On" (PDF). United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. November 2006. 
  21. ^ a b Katz, Yaakov. "Hamas threats keep crossing closed." Jerusalem Post. 5 July 2007. 7 July 2007.
  22. ^ "At Gaza border with Egypt, masses make reverse exodus into Sinai". Haaretz. 2008-01-25. 
  23. ^ "UN fails to agree on Gaza statement". Radio Netherlands Worldwide. 2008-01-25. [dead link]
  24. ^ "Militants blow up Rafah barrier". World News Australia. 2008-01-24. Retrieved 2008-01-24. [dead link]
  25. ^ "Egypt blocks Palestinian 'exodus' in Gaza". AsiaNews. 2008-01-24. Retrieved 2008-01-24. 
  26. ^ Kershner, Isabel (2008-02-04). "Egyptian Troops Seal Gaza Border". New York Times. 
  27. ^ Abu, Khaled. "Egypt closes Rafah border | Jerusalem Post". Fr.jpost.com. Retrieved 2011-05-28. 
  28. ^ Kershner, Isabel (2008-02-04). "New York Times: Israeli Defense Minister to Stay in Olmert Coalition". Israel: Nytimes.com. Retrieved 2011-05-28. 
  29. ^ From Kevin Flower, CNN (2011-05-28). "Egypt reopens border with Gaza - CNN.com". Edition.cnn.com. Retrieved 2011-05-28. 
  30. ^ Kirkpatrick, David D. (2011-05-28). "Egypt Reopens Border With Gaza". The New York Times. 
  31. ^ 28 May 2011, 07.12PM IST,AP (2011-05-28). "Egypt permanently opens Gaza border crossing - The Economic Times". Economictimes.indiatimes.com. Retrieved 2011-05-28. 
  32. ^ Rafah crossing reopened after 4 days of Hamas-Egypt rift. Xinhua, 8 June 2011
  33. ^ "Rafah crossing closed after Egypt violence - Middle East". Al Jazeera English. Retrieved 2014-08-10.