Palestinian security sources reported on Tuesday morning that the
Israeli army has reopened the Rafah border crossing in the south of the
Gaza strip.

The source added that the crossing will be open for the Palestinian travelers until five PM today. This is significant as it is the only border crossing in or out of the strip that connects Gaza to Egypt.

The crossing has been operating normally until now with no problems reported, however it was closed on Sunday trapping scores of Palestinians coming back from abroad where they were spending the Eid Al Iftar holiday with their families. Eid Al Iftar, which started on Monday, marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan. Hundreds of Palestinians were forced to spend it on the other side of the border due to the Israeli military operation which claimed the lives of seven residents in Beit Hanoun.

The crossing was placed under total Palestinian control – with European monitors – as a result of an agreement between Palestinian, Israeli and European negotiations that took place in December 2005. This was part of the Israeli 'disengagement' process when the Israeli army and settlers were re-deployed to the periphery of the strip. Since then the army have repeatedly invaded the crossing area and forcibly closed it, trapping scores of Palestinian travelers on the Egyptian side of the border. So far this practice has caused the deaths of several Palestinian residents. 

According to humanitarian organizations in Israel the crossing was only open for six days in the last three months. In one incident there were approximately three thousand residents trapped on the Egyptian side of the border waiting to return home to the Gaza strip. Those travelers include people who left the strip for medical care, education and business. Closing the border crossing is considered to be 'collective punishment' to the civilians of the Palestinian areas and is turning Gaza into a prison in which the residents are forced to live in unbearably tragic conditions, a UN human rights council report stated earlier this month.