Egypt should open border crossing into Gaza, British Government says

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond raised the issue with Egypt's foreign minister earlier this year

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The Independent Online

The British Government has asked the Egyptian government to re-open its border with the Gaza strip, ministers have said.

The Rafah border crossing, the only way out of Gaza that does not pass through Israeli territory, has been closed since the start of the year to most traffic.

The Israeli military has enforced a blockade of Gaza from the Israeli side since 2007, shortly after the election of Hamas to the territory’s administration.

The blockade, which the United Nations says infringes basic human rights, has resulted in a desperate humanitarian situation in the territory.

70 to 80 per cent of Gazans live below the poverty line while thousands of people forced out of their homes during Israeli bombing campaigns have been unable to return due to a lack of construction supplies.

Conservative peer Baroness Anelay, a minister at the Foreign Office, said in response to a parliamentary question that allowing traffic across the border could lessen some of the the humanitarian impact of the Israeli blockade of the area.

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Philip Hammond, who raised the issue with Egypt's government

“We are concerned about the closure of the Rafah Pedestrian Crossing and the impact that has, particularly on urgent medical and other priority cases in Gaza,” the minister said.

“We have encouraged the Egyptian authorities to ease the movement of bona fide travellers through Rafah, and in the longer term to consider expanding Rafah to passenger transit and humanitarian goods transit, which will help to ease humanitarian pressures.

“[Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond] raised the importance of reopening the Rafah crossing when he spoke with the Egyptian Foreign Minister on 14 January. We continue to raise this issue in our contacts with the Egyptian government.”

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A map showing Gaza's borders

Ministers noted that some crossings into but not out of the Gaza strip had been allowed by Egyptian authorities in recent days.

Israel says the blockade against Gaza’s population is in retaliation for rocket attacks by Hamas militants.

The United Nations said earlier this year that more civilians were killed in Palestine last year than at any time since 1967.

“Overall, some 4,000,000 Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip remain under an Israeli military occupation that prevents them from exercising many of their basic human rights,” an official report released in March said.

 

“This crisis stems from the prolonged occupation and recurrent hostilities, alongside a system of policies that undermine the ability of Palestinians to live normal, selfsustaining lives and realize the full spectrum of their rights, including the right to self-determination.”

In July Israel bombarded the Gaza strip for seven weeks then sent troops into the area as militant groups fired rockets at Israel.

A total of 2,220 Palestinians, including 1,492 civilians were killed in Gaza in 2014, the UN said, noting that “Israeli attacks striking residential buildings accounted for a significant number of the civilian casualties”.

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