For the first time since fighting erupted between Israel and Hamas, the vital Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt opened briefly on Saturday. The opening allowed a limited number of aid trucks to enter after over a week of closure that left Gaza residents desperate for supplies.
Rafah Crossing: Gaza’s Gateway to the Outside World
The Rafah crossing in the southern Gaza Strip is Gaza’s main gateway to the outside world. It connects the Palestinian territory to Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. Rafah is one of only three crossings into Gaza, along with Erez in the north (for people) and Kerem Shalom in the south (for goods).
With Erez and Kerem Shalom closed indefinitely by Israel since fighting began on October 7, Rafah has become the only route for critical humanitarian aid to reach Gaza’s 2 million residents.
Why Reopening Rafah Matters for Gaza?
Israel and Hamas agreed to a temporary ceasefire on Saturday, allowing Rafah to open for the first time in over a week. Palestinian officials said 20 aid trucks entered through the crossing, carrying desperately needed food, water, and medicine. Fuel, also in short supply, was not allowed.
Gaza faces an imminent humanitarian crisis due to shortages of food, water, and electricity. The brief reopening provides some relief, but aid groups warn the limited supplies will go quickly.
With Gaza’s main cargo crossings closed, Rafah also represents the only way for foreign passport holders to leave. Several countries are now working to evacuate citizens stuck in the war zone.
Controlled Opening Reflects Security Concerns
Despite the pressing humanitarian situation, Egypt and Israel remain cautious about fully reopening Rafah. Both cite significant security concerns.
Egypt fears an influx of refugees from Gaza could destabilize Sinai, where the government battles an Islamist insurgency. Israel says Hamas could exploit Rafah to smuggle in weapons and fighters.
most exits from Gaza are closely controlled by Hamas and Egypt. Palestinians must register weeks in advance, with no guarantee of approval. In August 2022, Egypt allowed 19,608 exits but denied 314 requests.
Diplomacy Continues to Reopen Crossings
Intense diplomatic efforts are underway to convince Egypt and Israel to open Rafah more substantially. The UN has described Rafah as a “lifeline” for Gaza civilians that must be protected.
The US, UK, and other nations are pressuring Israel to restore operations at Erez and Kerem Shalom. But Israel continues its “complete siege” of Gaza as long as rocket fire persists.
For now, Gaza’s humanitarian crisis hinges on limited operations at Rafah. Saturday’s brief opening provides some aid, but the crossing must stay open regularly to prevent a deepening disaster.