Gaza City, 4 Dzulhijjah 1436/17 September 2015 (MINA) – Egyptian authorities allowed 500 Muslim pilgrims to cross through the Rafah terminal into Egypt on Thursday morning, said a Palestinian official.
The 500 pilgrims crossing into Egypt to make the Hajj pilgrims to go to Saudi Arabia, are all from families of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces, the director of the Gaza association for martyrs’ families, Muhammad Al-Nahhal.
Al-Nahal said the 500 pilgrims were invited to make the journey by the Saudi king, who has covered all travel expenses, Ma’an News Agency quoted by Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA) as reporting
The invitation is known as “a noble grant by the custodian of the two holy mosques,” Al-Nahal said.
The Gazan Ministry of Interior announced plans to open the crossing earlier this month, specifying that only pilgrims would be allowed to cross through the terminal during the temporary opening.
The Rafah crossing, Gaza’s only connection to the outside world, has been virtually closed since October 2014, allowing only a fraction of Gazans to leave or enter the blockaded enclave.
Last month Egyptian authorities opened the crossing for four days, allowing 2,579 humanitarian cases to leave Gaza while 3,178 people were permitted entry to the coastal enclave.
In late June, Egyptian authorities agreed to keep the crossing open for a week, the longest period so far this year.
The 1.8 million residents of the Gaza Strip have lived under a strict Israeli blockade since 2006, which Egypt has helped to maintain.
Hamas has also suffered poor relations with the Egyptian government since the democratically-elected Muslim Brotherhood, with whom they were closely allied, was thrown out of power in July 2013.
Since then, the Egyptian army has destroyed hundreds of smuggling tunnels, which served as a crucial lifeline to the outside world for food, medicine, and materials including concrete and fuel.
The humanitarian situation in the enclave remains dire one year after the Gaza war last summer, with reconstruction having only started only in July this year.
In May, the World Bank said that Gaza had the highest unemployment rate in the world, blaming the blockade as responsible for massive GDP losses and the virtual disappearance of exports.(T/P008/R03)
Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)