On Thursday the Rafah crossing on the Gaza-Egypt border was re-opened after a day’s closure. As hoards of Palestinian civilians accumulated, panic erupted amidst Israeli troops’ attempt to achieve calm by firing gunshots in the air.It is estimated that 5000 civilians desperate to cross the rarely open border crossing had gathered in the area, resulting in a crush of bodies. Chaos broke out, causing the death of one elderly man, named as Ismail Qizaat by Gaza sources. Four people suffered injuries.
According to eyewitnesses at the crossing, men are taking to the roof tops of buses, while there is no room for organized passing. Women reportedly pleaded with officials at the crossing to organize the crowds of people, to no avail.
The opening hours of the crossing have been continuously inconsistent since 25 June 2006, when Palestinian armed factions captured the Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, near the southern Gaza Strip. As a result of short and limited periods of opening, there have often been hoards of travelers accumulating at the crossing, resulting in mass crushes.
A media spokesman of the European Observers, who are usually present at the crossing to monitor activities, called on Palestinian travelers to remain orderly so as to pass through the point smoothly.
Nathmi Mhanna, Palestinian official for crossings, sated that Rafah border crossing will be open Thursday and Friday.