RAFAH, Gaza Strip (Reuters) – A fleet of yellow Mercedes taxis lines up outside Gaza’s newly reopened Rafah crossing into Egypt, polished again and ready to roll, but with no idea for how long.
Uncertainty is a fact of life in the Palestinian border town, where 4,500 people have crossed into Egypt in the two weeks since one of Gaza’s few lifelines to the outside world swung open on Feb. 9.
The opening eased the years-long blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt on the coastal strip, compounded by measures imposed by all sides to halt the spread of COVID-19.
It arose from political manoeuvring: Egyptian-brokered mediation talks between rival Palestinian factions to smooth the way for possible elections.
But the travellers have no idea how long the gate will stay open.
“To me, Rafah crossing is my source of living. If it opens, I live, and I eat and buy clothes,” said Saif Rusrus, 21, who left school to sell pastries there. “As long as there are disputes, the crossing will continue to open and close.”
Israel and Egypt cite security concerns for the restrictions, pointing to the fact that Gaza is controlled by the Islamist militant group Hamas.
The two countries allow passage for thousands of workers and humanitarian cases each year, but most of Gaza’s two million Palestinians cannot leave.
“Gaza turns into a big prison when Rafah crossing is closed,” said hepatitis patient Uday Zaanin, 38, as he waited to board the bus.
Reporting by Nidal Almughrabi in Rafah; Writing by Stephen Farrell in Jerusalem; Editing by Giles Elgood