The Rafah Border Crossing in Egypt – A history of the openings and closings

The Rafah Border Crossing is a very important crossing point for people in Gaza.  This border was redrawn after the 1979 Israeli and Egyptian peace treaty was signed.   The treaty dictated a 100-meter wide buffer zone between Egypt and Gaza.  It also cut through the town of Rafah creating havoc for families.  It is the only point where individuals can enter and leave Gaza.  The Rafah border is used for people to go in and out of the area.  The border has been closed more than it has been open in recent years. This causes great strife for the people living in the area.  The reasons for the closures vary, but generally it is because of security concerns.  The Egyptian government has indicated that the Hamas Terrorists had provided weapons to individuals in the Sinai peninsula to cause terrorist attacks.  They smuggled these weapons through tunnels created from Gaza to Rafah.  This is one of the reasons that the border has been closed.  When the border crossing is open they usually give priority to people who are sick or in need of medical care and students.


In September 2005 Israel withdrew from the Gaza area settlements and at that point it was up to the European Union Border Assistance Mission in Rafah to monitor the crossing.  At that point the border was controlled by Egypt on the Egyptian side and the Fatah-controlled Palestinian National Authority on the Gaza side.   In November 2005 the crossing was opened for the first time in its new location under the European union’s supervision.   Israel monitored the crossing through a video feed at the border crossing.


From 2005 to 2006 approximately 40,000 people crossed the border.  In June 2006 an Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit was captured and this caused the border to be closed for three quarters of the year.   In 2006 there was a conflict between the Fatah and Hamas movements.  During Parliamentary elections in 2006 Hamas won power and the Hamas fighters took control of the Gaza Strip.   This led to an almost permanent closing of the Rafah Border crossing with Egypt.  There were infrequent openings.  In 2010 the average of monthly entries and exists across the border grew to 19,000.


Mubarak’s government opposed the Hamas group controlling the Gaza government as it saw Hamas as a terrorist organization.  In 2011 there was an agreement reached between the Fatah government and the Hamas government.  This agreement was mediated in Egypt.  The border was to re-open on a permanent basis after the agreement.  This didn’t last very long as by mid 2011 the borders were again open only to a limited amount of people.  When the Mubarak government was replaced by Mohamed Morsi’s government the number grew for the crossing.  It averaged about 40,000 people a month crossing the border at Rafah.  In July 2013, after Morsi’s was removed from power the Rafah Border Crossing was again almost completely shut down.  In 2014 there was another mediated truce this time between Israel and Hamas.  The terms included a return of the presidential Guard from Egypt and the European Union supporting the supervision of the border crossing.  This was to open the borders again.  It succeeded for a short time.

More recently the Rafah border crossing has been closed more than open.  It was closed for 85 days straight but was opened in the end of May 2016 for the holy holiday of Ramadan.  It was opened again for 5 days before Eid al-Fitr to allow Palestinians to enter and leave for the holiday.

The crossing is a difficult situation for the people living in the area.  Hopefully one day it will be arranged to have the border permanently open for all people.

Rafah is a city with a long history. It dates back 3000 years to the time when it was a stop along a route the military took to help protect the region.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *