Egypt to keep Rafah crossing open all Ramadan

Egypt to keep Rafah crossing open all Ramadan

Egyptian President Abdel Fatah el-Sisi has made a rare decision to open the Rafah crossing with Gaza for a month to allow Palestinians to cross during the holy period of Ramadan.

Rafah is the main exit for the 1.9 million Palestinians in the Strip to the outside world since Israel imposed a land, sea and air blockade on the besieged territory more than a decade ago. It handed control of those crossings late a year ago to its rival, the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, in a reconciliation deal signed in Cairo.

The protest escalated Monday as the USA opened its embassy in Jerusalem.The demonstrators charged fences separating Gaza from Israel, tearing down sections of the wire barrier and throwing rocks.

U.N rights chief Zeid said the protesters' "actions alone do not appear to constitute the imminent threat to life or deadly injury which could justify the use of lethal force."He said Israel's response to Gaza was "wholly disproportionate".

"I issued directives to take the necessary measures to keep the Rafah border crossing open throughout the holy month of Ramadan in a bid to relieve some of the burdens suffered by our brothers in the Gaza strip", the Egyptian leader posted on Facebook and Twitter.

Israel sealed four of its commercial crossings with Gaza in mid-2007 after Palestinian resistance movement Hamas wrested control of the strip from the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority.

But critics argue it amounts to collective punishment of the enclave's residents, with 47% suffering from food insecurity, according to United Nations figures.

At an Israeli checkpoint early on Friday, Palestinians were crossing from the West Bank town of Bethlehem to the first weekly prayers of Ramadan at Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.

Palestinians were checked with metal detectors and had their bags searched by Israeli forces, while at least two men in wheelchairs were pushed through the checkpoint by border agents.

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