Rafah Border Crossing

The Israel and Egypt − Gaza Strip barrier is a separation barrier first constructed by Israel in 1994 between the Gaza Strip and Israel. An addition to the barrier was finished in 2005 to separate the Gaza Strip and Egypt.

The fence runs along the entire land border of the Gaza Strip. It is made up of wire fencing with posts, sensors and buffer zones on lands bordering Israel, and concrete and steel walls on lands bordering Egypt.

Entry into the Gaza Strip by land is through five crossing points: the northern Erez Crossing into Israel, the southern Rafah Crossing into Egypt, and the eastern Karni Crossing used only for cargo. Other cargo crossing points are the Kerem Shalom Crossing on the border with Egypt and the Sufa Crossing farther north.

The barrier

The Gaza Strip borders Egypt on the south-west and Israel on the south, east and north. It is about 41 kilometers (25 mi) long, and between 6 and 12 kilometers (4–7.5 mi) wide, with a population of about 1.5 million people. The shape of the territory was defined by the 1949 Armistice Agreement following the creation of Israel in 1948 and the subsequent war between the Israeli and Arab armies. Under the armistice agreement, Egypt administered the Strip for 19 years, to 1967, when it was occupied by Israel in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War.

Israel-Gaza Strip barrier

In 1993, Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organisation signed the Oslo Accords establishing the Palestinian Authority with limited administrative control of the Palestinian territories. Pursuant to the Accords, Israel has continued to maintain control of the Gaza Strip's airspace, land borders and territorial waters. Israel started construction of the first 60 kilometers (37 mi) long barrier between the Gaza Strip and Israel in 1994, after the signing of the Oslo Accords. In the 1994 Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, it was agreed that "the security fence erected by Israel around the Gaza Strip shall remain in place and that the line demarcated by the fence, as shown on the map, shall be authoritative only for the purpose of the Agreement" (i.e. the barrier does not constitute the border). The barrier was completed in 1996.

From the Israeli perspective, the Israel–Gaza Strip barrier is a security barrier intended by Israel to control the movement of people between the Gaza Strip and Israel, and to attempt to improve security in Israel.

The Israel-Gaza Strip barrier has met with opposition and protests from some Palestinians.

The barrier was largely torn down by Palestinians at the beginning of the Al-Aqsa Intifada in September 2000. The barrier was rebuilt between December 2000 and June 2001. A one-kilometer buffer zone was added, in addition to new high technology observation posts. Soldiers were also given new rules of engagement, which, according to Ha'aretz, allow soldiers to fire at anyone seen crawling there at night. Palestinians attempting to cross the barrier into Israel by stealth have been shot and killed.

The barrier's effectiveness prompted a shift in the tactics of Palestinian militants who commenced firing Qassam rockets and mortars over the barrier.

It has been argued that the barrier has been effective in preventing terrorists and suicide bombers from entering Israel from Gaza. Since 1996, virtually all suicide bombers trying to leave Gaza have detonated their charges at the barrier's crossing points or were stopped while trying to cross the barrier elsewhere. From 1994 until 2004 only one suicide bomber originating from within the Gaza Strip successfully carried out an attack in Israel (the March 14, 2004, attack in Ashdod).

In 2005, Israel unilaterally withdrew its troops from the Gaza Strip, along with thousands of Israeli settlers. Israel claimed that that was the end of the occupation. However, this claim has been challenged internationally, as Israel still exercises control over most of Gaza's land borders, as well as its territorial waters and airspace. Egypt controls Gaza's southern border.

In June 2007, Hamas took over the strip, ousting the forces of Fatah, the faction led by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and effectively splitting Gaza from the West Bank in terms of its administration. Hamas had won legislative elections in January 2006. Israel intensified its blockade of the Gaza Strip in June 2007, when Hamas took power. The aim has been to isolate Hamas and to pressure it to stop militant rocket fire.

On 27 December 2008, Israel launched the Gaza War, consisting of airstrikes and ground incursions against targets in the Gaza Strip, with the stated aim of stopping the rocket fire from and arms smuggling into the territory. The war ended on 18 January 2009, when both sides ceased military action. Israel completed its withdrawal on 21 January, and very few rockets have been fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel since.

Egypt-Gaza Strip barrier

The border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip is 7 miles (11 km) long.

In 1979, Israel and Egypt signed a peace treaty that returned the Sinai Peninsula, which borders the Gaza Strip, to Egyptian control. As part of that treaty, a 100-meter-wide strip of land known as the Philadelphi Route was established as a buffer zone between Gaza and Egypt.

Israel built a barrier and 200–300 meter buffer zone in the Philadelphi corridor during the Palestinian uprisings of the early 2000s. It was made mostly of corrugated sheet metal, with stretches of concrete topped with barbed wire. The construction of the buffer zone required the demolition of entire blocks of houses at the main entrance to Rafah's central thoroughway, in addition to the Al-Brazil Block, Tel al Sultan and others in "Block O."

The present barrier along the Egyptian border consists of concrete and steel walls and is over eight metres high and equipped with electronic sensors and underground concrete barriers to prevent tunneling, adding to the already existent steel wall running the length of the border with Egypt. Construction of the concrete wall commenced in 2004 and completed in 2005, before the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.

A continuing problem for Israel in the control of the Egypt-Gaza Strip border is the large number of smuggling tunnels dug under the barrier. Prior to the Israeli withdrawal in mid-2005, Rafah was an area of frequent clashes between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian militants. Very often heavy fire, anti-tank missiles, and grenades had been fired on IDF forces and outposts. Israeli security officials have said that the heavy fortification system is meant to protect the soldiers' lives and stop smuggling tunnels which are used by Palestinian militants to obtain weapons and explosives.

Crossing points

There are three main crossing points out of the Gaza Strip: the northern Erez Crossing into Israel, the southern Rafah Crossing into Egypt, and the eastern Karni Crossing used only for cargo. Other cargo crossing points are the Kerem Shalom Crossing on the border with Egypt and the Sufa Crossing further north.

From the Palestinian perspective, the crossings are crucial to the economy of the Gaza Strip and to the daily needs of the population. Chief Palestinian Authority negotiator Saeb Erekat described closures of the crossings as collective punishment and said they have "proven to be counter-productive".

Erez Crossing

The Erez Crossing is a pedestrian and cargo crossing into Israel, located in the northern end of the Strip. The crossing is currently restricted to Arab residents under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority and to Egyptian nationals or international aid officials only. Palestinians who have a permit to work in Israel or those with permits allowing them to receive medical treatment or to visit immediate family in prisons may use this crossing when it is open for pedestrian travel.

Currently the crossing is only open for foreigners and for the few Palestinians with a residence permit for another country or permits for medical treatment in Israel.

Though 5,000 Palestinians are permitted to use the Erez Crossing to go to their places of work inside Israel, the crossing was frequently closed by the Israeli authorities, impeding their ability to get to work. Additionally, the permits issued have not always been honoured by soldiers, who in some cases confiscated them at the crossing.

Karni Crossing

The Karni Crossing is used for cargo traffic. The Karni crossing is often closed by Israel after attacks by Palestinian militants on Israeli targets. Israeli officials have cited ongoing threats against its security, inaction against terrorist group activity on the part of the Palestinian Authority, and a lack of other choices as justification to close the crossing.

Breach of the barrier

On 25 June 2006 Palestinian militants used an 800-metre tunnel dug under the barrier over a period of months to infiltrate into Israel. They attacked a patrolling Israeli armored unit, killed two Israeli soldiers, and captured another one, Gilad Shalit.

Rafah Crossing

The Rafah Border Crossing lies on the international border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip that was recognized by the 1979 Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty and confirmed during the 1982 Israeli withdrawal from the Sinai Peninsula.

The crossing was managed by the Israel Airports Authority until Israel evacuated Gaza on 11 September 2005 as part of Israel's unilateral disengagement plan. It subsequently became the task of the European Union Border Assistance Mission Rafah (EUBAM) to monitor the crossing.

In 2005 when Israel decided to pull out of the Gaza Strip, Israel and Egypt reached an agreement regarding the border, based on the principles of the 1979 peace treaty. The agreement specified that 750 Egyptian border guards would be deployed along the length of the border, and both Egypt and Israel pledged to work together to stem terrorism, arms smuggling, and other illegal cross-border activities. In September 2005, following Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, control of the Philadelphi corridor was handed over to the Palestinian National Authority. Under an agreement reached in November 2005, EUBAM was responsible for monitoring the Rafah Border Crossing. From November 2005 until July 2007, the Rafah Crossing was jointly controlled by Egypt and the Palestinian Authority, with the European Union monitoring Palestinian compliance on the Gaza side.

The crossing reopened with EUBAM monitors on 25 November 2005, and operated daily until 25 June 2006 (except for one day), when the crossing was closed after Palestinians attacked the Kerem Shalom crossing point and captured an Israeli soldier. The crossing was infrequently reopened after this attack.

In June 2007 the Rafah Crossing was closed by the Egyptian authorities after the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip. Due to the lack of security the EU monitors pulled out of the region, and Egypt agreed with Israel to shut down the Rafah Crossing. During the Battle of Gaza, 6,000 Palestinians took refuge from the fighting across the Egyptian border. They were stranded on the Egyptian side of Rafah after Hamas took power and were prevented by Hamas from returning to the Gaza Strip. Israeli and Egyptian diplomats tried to convince Hamas to allow these Palestinians to peacefully use the Kerem Shalom crossing to return home. However, on 5 July 2007, according to Israeli officials, Hamas refused to allow the crossing to be used and threatened to attack the crossing with mortars and gunfire, even at the cost of killing thousands of Palestinians.

On 22 January 2008 after Israel imposed a total closure on all crossings to the Gaza Strip, a group of Hamas demonstrators attempted to force open the door of the Rafah Crossing. They were beaten back by Egyptian police and gunfire erupted. That same night Hamas militants set off 15 explosive charges, demolishing a 200-metre length of the metal border wall. After the resulting Breach of the Gaza-Egypt border, many thousands of Palestinians, with estimates ranging from 200,000 to 700,000, crossed into Egypt to buy goods. Palestinians were seen purchasing food, fuel, cigarettes, shoes, furniture, car parts, and generators.

The border was closed again by Egypt with Hamas's cooperation, except for travelers returning home, on 3 February 2008. At this time, many of the Palestinians who had been stranded on the Egyptian side of the border following the Battle of Gaza are believed to have taken the opportunity to return to the Gaza Strip.

On May 28, 2011, the Rafah border was opened for Palestinians to cross into Egypt. Most travel restrictions were dropped, though men between the ages of 18 to 40 entering Egypt must apply for visas and others need travel permits. Soon after the revolution, Egypt’s foreign minister, Nabil el-Araby, opened discussions with Hamas aimed at easing the travel restrictions and improving relations between the two. Even though passenger restrictions were loosened, the shipment into Gaza of goods remains blocked. In the first five hours after the opening, 340 people crossed into Egypt.

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