Rafah Border Crossing

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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.

Israeli disengagement[edit]

On 16 February 2005, the Israeli parliament had approved the Israeli disengagement from Gaza. Israel withdrew from Gaza in September 2005. Control of the Gaza–Egypt border was on the Egyptian side handed over to Egypt. The Fatah-dominated Palestinian National Authority had been given control on the Gazan side of the Border Crossing.

In September 2005, Israel withdrew from Gaza. The Philadelphi Accord between Israel and Egypt, based on the principles of the 1979 peace treaty, turned over border control to Egypt, while the supply of arms to the Palestinian Authority was subjected to Israeli consent under the pretext of terror prevention. 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][2] The Agreed Principles for Rafah Crossing, part of the November 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access (AMA) of 15 November 2005, ensured Israeli monitoring of the Rafah border crossing.[3]

Under an agreement, EUBAM was responsible for monitoring the 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.[4] The Crossing operated daily until 25 June 2006 (except for one day), when it was closed after Palestinians attacked the Kerem Shalom crossing point and captured an Israeli soldier.[5] The crossing was infrequently reopened after this attack.[5]

Closures of the border[edit]

In June 2007, the Rafah Crossing was closed by the Egyptian authorities after Hamas' takeover of the Gaza Strip. The Fatah-led Palestinian Authority in the West Bank has declared that the Rafah Crossing should remain closed until the control by the Presidential Guard is restored.[6] 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] The Fatah-led Palestinian Authority in the West Bank has declared that the Rafah Crossing should remain closed until the control by the Presidential Guard is restored.[6]

According to a 2009 report of Gisha, Israel continued to exercise control through its control of the Palestinian population registry, which determines who is allowed to go through Rafah Crossing. It also had the power to use its right to veto the passage of foreigners, even when belonging to the list of categories of foreigners allowed to cross, and to decide to close the crossing indefinitely. [6]

Gisha has blamed Israel for keeping the Rafah Crossing closed through indirect means and Egypt for submitting to Israeli pressure and not cooperate with the Hamas government. Hamas, however was blamed for not allowing the Presidential Guard to apply the AMA agreement. The Palestinian Authority was blamed for its refusal to compromise with Hamas over control of Rafah Crossing. The EU monitoring force was criticized for its submission to Israel's demands for closing the border, without calling for re-opening. The US was criticized for allowing human rights violations caused by the closure and avoiding pressure on Egypt.

After Hamas' takeover of Gaza[edit]

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 demolished a 200-metre length of the metal border wall with explosives. 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.[7][8] Palestinians were seen purchasing food, fuel, cigarettes, shoes, furniture, car parts, and generators.[9][10] On 3 February 2008, the border was closed again by Egypt, except for travelers returning home.[11]

On 28 May 2011, the Rafah border was opened for Palestinians to cross into Egypt.[12] 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.[13] In the first five hours after the opening, 340 people crossed into Egypt.[14]

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.[15]

In July 2013, in the aftermath of 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 widespread unrest in Egypt and the bloody crackdown on loyalists of ousted President Morsi on 14 August, the border crossing was closed 'indefinitely'.[16] Afterwards, it has been opened for a few days every few months.[17]

In March 2015, Egypt declared that it would only open the border crossing if the Palestinian side is staffed by Palestinian Authority employees under the full authority of the Presidential Guards and no Hamas personnel are present.[17] Islamic Jihad suggested that PA and Hamas would open the Rafah Crossing under the supervision and in the presence of the PA. Egyptian intelligence and Hamas appeared to agree, but the PA did not respond. Hamas accused Fatah and the PA that they “want to exclude it from political and field landscape by their insisting on the PA monopoly in controlling the crossings and borders”.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Shen, Nina (2008-01-25). "Gaza: The Basics. Some history and background on the Gaza Strip". Slate.com. 
  2. ^ A New Reality on the Egypt-Gaza Border (Part I): Contents of the New Israel-Egypt Agreement. Brooke Neuman, Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 19 September 2005
  3. ^ Agreed Principles for Rafah Crossing. 15 November 2005
  4. ^ FAQs. EU BAM Rafah. Accessed September 2015
  5. ^ a b "The Agreement on Movement and Access One Year On" (PDF). United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. November 2006. 
  6. ^ a b c Rafah Crossing: Who Holds the Keys?, pp. 23-25, 136, 143-, 160-, 167-, 170- 174-. Noga Kadman, Gisha, March 2009. Here available
  7. ^ "At Gaza border with Egypt, masses make reverse exodus into Sinai". Haaretz. 2008-01-25. 
  8. ^ "UN fails to agree on Gaza statement". Radio Netherlands Worldwide. 2008-01-25. [dead link]
  9. ^ "Militants blow up Rafah barrier". World News Australia. 2008-01-24. Retrieved 2008-01-24. [dead link]
  10. ^ "Egypt blocks Palestinian 'exodus' in Gaza". AsiaNews. 2008-01-24. Retrieved 2008-01-24. 
  11. ^ Kershner, Isabel (2008-02-04). "New York Times: Israeli Defense Minister to Stay in Olmert Coalition". Israel: Nytimes.com. Retrieved 2011-05-28. 
  12. ^ From Kevin Flower, CNN (2011-05-28). "Egypt reopens border with Gaza - CNN.com". Edition.cnn.com. Retrieved 2011-05-28. 
  13. ^ Kirkpatrick, David D. (2011-05-28). "Egypt Reopens Border With Gaza". The New York Times. 
  14. ^ 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. 
  15. ^ Rafah crossing reopened after 4 days of Hamas-Egypt rift. Xinhua, 8 June 2011
  16. ^ Rafah crossing closed after Egypt violence. Al Jazeera, 15 August 2013
  17. ^ a b c Egypt won’t open Rafah crossing if Hamas controls it. Dia Khalil, al-Araby, 6 March 2015