Egypt once again closed the Rafah border crossing on Friday, as Palestinian medical authorities reported that the death toll in the besieged Gaza Strip was nearing 100.
Egypt faced criticism for keeping the crossing closed last week after Israel launched a new military offensive on the other side of the border, only opening the crossing on Thursday to allow 11 injured Palestinians entry to receive medical treatment. Rafah is the only crossing in or out of the Palestinian enclave.
Palestinian authorities expressed dismay at Egypt’s decision to shutter the passageway.
Gaza’s Interior Ministry issued a press statement reading, “Egyptian authorities informed us of the closure of the Rafah crossing, yet we were not given any explanation as to why it was being closed,” reported the Turkish Anadolu news agency.
“Ambulances and other transport vehicles were put on standby near the Rafah border,” the statement continued, adding “we were disturbed by this decision,” which it described as “a reckless disregard for the suffering of the injured.”
In a statement issued on Friday, the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs denounced “Israel’s armed escalations” against Gaza, and called on the international community to intervene so as to bring about a ceasefire.
“The increased suffering of Gaza’s population is not acceptable,” Egypt’s statement proclaimed. However, the specific reasons for closing the border crossing on Friday were not explained.
A previous statement issued by the Foreign Ministry on Tuesday decried “Israel’s collective punishment” of Gaza, again without commenting on Egypt’s decision to keep Gaza’s only border crossing closed while the area remained under fire.
But anonymous Egyptian security sources cited in a number of local media outlets on Friday claimed that Sinai authorities were preparing to receive injured Palestinians again as of Saturday morning.
The densely populated Gaza Strip, with a population of some 1.7 million, has been subjected to Israeli air strikes since June 27, when Hamas began to fire primitive rockets into Israeli territory.
Israel’s retaliatory strikes have killed close to 100 Palestinians, including dozens of women and children, while several hundreds more have been injured or displaced by the assaults.
No Israeli deaths have been reported thus far, though one serious Israeli injury associated with Hamas rocket fire on a gas station has been claimed, as well as property damage.
In a follow up to Israel’s Operation Protective Edge, an estimated 20,000 Israeli troops are reportedly preparing for a ground offensive into the Gaza Strip.
Over the course of the past year, Egyptian Armed Forces destroyed virtually all of Gaza’s smuggling tunnels into the Sinai Peninsula, an important lifeline in light of the closure of the Rafah border.