Egyptian authorities opened the Rafah border crossing, connecting the Gaza Strip with Egypt's North Sinai province, on Wednesday, February 7. The border crossing is expected to be open for three days, through Friday, February 9. The move comes as the humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate in Gaza; thousands of Palestinians reportedly arrived at the border on Thursday, February 8, to temporarily leave Gaza to receive medical treatment, among other motivations. A heightened security presence is expected at the border crossing in the coming days.
The February 7 opening of the Rafah border crossing marks the first time that the Egyptian-Gazan border has been opened in 2018, and came with no prior announcement. In October 2017, the Hamas and Fatah groups signed a reconciliation agreement, with Hamas ceding control of the Gazan side of the Rafah crossing to the Palestinian Authority (PA). Egyptian authorities temporarily opened the crossing for three days in December 2017.
Egypt's neighboring North Sinai province has been the epicenter of frequent attacks by Islamic State (IS)-affiliated militants since 2013 - usually targeting security forces or minority Coptic Christians. On November 29, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ordered the Egyptian military to stabilize the restive Sinai Peninsula within the next three months, telling security forces to use "all brute force necessary" to restore security in the region.
Individuals are advised against travel to the Gaza Strip due to the difficulties of exiting the territory, the high risk of terrorism, the recurrent eruptions of violence between Palestinians and Israeli security forces, and the poor living conditions on the ground. Individuals in Israel are advised to avoid the area near the Gazan border due to the frequent launching of rockets from the territory.
Due to the prevailing threat of terrorism, individuals throughout Egypt should report any suspicious objects or behavior to the authorities and always be on guard when visiting sites deemed particularly vulnerable to an attack (e.g. public transportation, train stations, ports, airports, public or government buildings, embassies or consulates, international organizations, schools and universities, religious sites, markets, hotels and restaurants frequented by foreigners/Westerners, festivals, etc.). Some governments advise their nationals against all travel to the Sinai Peninsula due to the persistent terrorist threat.
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