Gaza warns of health crisis as Egypt closes border
Published Wednesday, August 8, 2012
Egypt's closure of the Rafah border crossing may lead to a serious health disaster, Gaza's heath authority warned on Wednesday.
"The decision to close the Rafah crossing to patients and humanitarian cases will add to their suffering and harm their health, and could lead to a serious health disaster," health ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said.
Following the killing of 16 troops by gunmen near the Israeli border on Sunday night, Egypt closed "until further notice" its Rafah border post with Gaza, the Palestinian territory's only crossing outside Israeli control.
Egypt's MENA news agency said the gunmen were "jihadis" who "infiltrated from Gaza through tunnels in collaboration with jihadi elements in the Al-Mahdiya and Gabal Halal areas" inside Egypt.
Hamas dismissed the idea that militants from inside Gaza may have been involved, and put its security forces on full alert.
Qudra noted that many patients were awaiting permission to travel into Egypt for medical treatment.
"They are waiting for a decision from the Egyptian leadership and President Mohammed Mursi which will end their suffering," he said.
"For Palestinians, it is the only way out to the world and it gives hope to hundreds of patients with serious health problems," said Qudra, noting that many kinds of medicine were not available in the Hamas-controlled territory.
Gaza has been under an Israeli blockade since Hamas took over the enclave.
Ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak eased the blockade under pressure in 2010, but did not allow commercial traffic through the Rafah border crossing as Hamas had hoped.
Mursi's recent rise to power had raised hopes among Hamas – an offshoot of Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood movement – that restrictions on the Palestinians in Gaza would be significantly eased.
Last month at a meeting with Gaza ruler Ismail Haniya, Mursi had agreed to extend the opening hours at the Rafah crossing.
A source close the meeting said the crossing's opening hours would extend from 5pm to 9pm.
They also agreed to increase the amount of Qatari fuel being sent into Gaza from Egypt via Israel for its sole power plant.
Israel destroyed much of Gaza's electricity infrastructure during the winter war in 2009, and has refused the importation of material necessary to repair damaged plants.