The Israeli authorities closed the Rafah Border crossing on Saturday
after opening it last Wednesday and Thursday and promising to open it
for the whole month of Ramadan for regular hours on a daily basis — prompting European Union observers to threaten to leave the crossing if Israel does not make an effort to live up to its obligation to keep it open.
The Rafah crossing, connecting Gaza with Egypt, is the sole access for the people of Gaza to the outside world.
Once again, the Israeli army, without any given reason, has closed this crossing. The only statement from the Israeli military spokesperson confirmed a 'general closure' on all Palestinian areas beginning Friday afternoon. The statement read, "In accordance with a decision made by the political echelon and in light of security assessments, a general closure will be imposed on Judea, Samaria [the Israeli term for the West Bank] and the Gaza Strip starting this afternoon, October 6th 2006. The closure will be lifted after an additional security assessment."
Currently there are more than 1,500 Muslim worshippers due to visit Saudi Arabia for the auspicious religious ceremony, the Hajj. These people are now stuck, waiting at the borders, despite promises by Israeli officials that it would be possible to leave the Gaza Strip throughout the day today and on Sunday.
On the Egyptian side of the crossing there are more than 3,000 Gaza residents, amongst them children and the infirm, who are also stuck, not able to re-enter Gaza.
Optimism on this particular issue ran high after the US Secretary of State's visit to the region, which many believed would pressure the Israelis on points such as this. The European Union has been openly threatening to withdraw its monitors if Israel insists on continuing to close the crossing.