Israel's four year old blockade of the 1.5 million residents Gaza is coming undone. Egypt's new leadership has announced it will open the Raffa border crossing between Egypt and Gaza on Saturday. Gaza is one of the poorest and most crowded places on earth.
Egypt 'to open Rafah border permanently'
The news agency MENA said on Wednesday that Egypt's new military rulers had set the date for the opening of the crossing as part of efforts "to end the status of the Palestinian division and achieve national reconciliation".
It said the Rafah border crossing would be opened permanently, starting on Saturday, from 9am to 9pm every day except Fridays and holidays.
Al Jazeera's Nicole Johnston, reporting from Gaza, said, "It comes as no surprise; people of Gaza and Egypt have been waiting for the news for the last few weeks."
However, it will not be a full opening as there will be some conditions on exit.
"It will allow basically all women to leave Gaza, also children under the age of 18 years will be allowed to leave, as well as men over the age of 40 years. However, those between the ages of 18 and 40 years will require an Egyptian visa," she said.
"Visas would have to come from Ramallah.
Border guards from the P.A. will administer the Gaza side of the Raffa crossing.
Egypt to Open Border With Gaza, in the Face of Israeli Objections
Egypt’s willingness to reopen the border with Gaza may have helped win the trust of its former enemy Hamas in order to broker a Palestinian reconciliation deal that was signed here this month.
Although willing to end the blockade, Egyptian officials have also repeatedly restated their commitment to their country’s 1979 peace treaty with Israel.
Israel uses keeping arms from reaching Hamas as its pretext for its blockade policy and claims its not collective punishment even though the blockade has imposed great hardship and crushing poverty on the residents of Gaza over the last 4 years
Guide: Gaza under blockade
In the wake of the Hamas takeover, Israel said it would allow only basic humanitarian supplies into the Strip. It has a list of dual-use items such as steel pipes and fertiliser which it says could be used to manufacture weapons.
These are not allowed in, with the exception of "special humanitarian cases". Other than that, no specific list of what is and is not allowed in has been published, and items gaining entry vary over time.
The UN relief agency for Palestinian refugees Unrwa's list of household items that have been refused entry at various times includes light bulbs, candles, matches, books, musical instruments, crayons, clothing, shoes, mattresses, sheets, blankets, pasta, tea, coffee, chocolate, nuts, shampoo and conditioner.
Many other items - ranging from cars to fridges to computers - are generally refused entry.
Building materials such as cement, concrete and wood were nearly always refused entry until early 2010, when some glass, wood, cement and aluminium were allowed in.
Israel's attack on Gaza in early 2009 primarily targeted Gaza's economic and civic infrastructure to make one of the poorest areas on earth even poorer and less livable. The Israeli attack targeted factories, farms, municipal water and sewage systems, roads, and power stations. The IDF also destroyed tens of thousands of housing units.
By forbidding construction materials form entering Gaza claiming that construction materials would be used by Hamas to build bunkers instead Israel prevented repairing and rebuilding the widespread devastation the IDF left behind. This capricious prohibition forced many Gazans to live in the rubble of their neighborhoods in makeshift shelters. It made sure Gazans had only polluted saline water to drink, and left untreated sewage flowing directly into the Mediterranean destroying the coastal fishery.
Following Israel's attack on Gaza the U.S. pledged $900 million to rebuild Gaza joining pledges of money from other nations totaling $4.5 billion. Unfortunately Netanyahu vetoed the U.S. aid along with the aid money from the international community in order to keep tens of thousands of homeless Gazans living in misery, and keep the economy of Gaza in shambles.
That the U.S. has been complicit in this cruel policy for three years following Israel's attack on Gaza is absolutely unconscionable. Now will the US make good on its three year old pledge to help rebuild Gaza, especially when much of the destruction was inflicted by weapons made in the U.S. and paid for by American taxpayers. That would be the morally correct thing to do. It would demonstrate that Netanyahu no longer exercises a veto over U.S. policy in the Region, and it would help America's image as a world leader immensely.