Whilst reporting to the Egyptian Association of UK AGM last night about my recent trip to the Gaza strip via Cairo, l spoke about my surprise at how the Rafah crossing was not as open as we’d imagined from our shores and indeed how difficult it is still, to get through if you’re a Palestinian.
The previous weekend, l’d visited as part of a humanitarian convoy of medical supplies sent out by “Miles of Smiles” via El-Arish port where a dozen European NGOs moved 30 tonnes of medical supplies and 12 ambulances. I along with 62 other activitists picked up the supplies from the port and transported it all to the Gaza strip with the consent of the Egyptian authorities. (and subsequently even the Israeli military forces).
When we first entered the Gaza strip, it felt like an open prison, which was how our Prime Minister described it last year. Movement through the Rafah crossing was slow for most, but in particular for the Palestinians. The movement of goods and aid via the crossing is a vital life line for Palestinians who live in the Gaza strip and who desperately rely on this channel for their basic sustenance. Not surprisingly, therefore, we were greeted with welcome arms, although the scale of gratitude was something which still took me a little by surprise.
Whilst there, I noticed also that full Rafah crossing rights were being offered to the Palestinians by Egypt as a reward for supporting Hamas & Fatah as the single representative for the Palestinians living in the West Bank & Gaza. Rumour has it, that there is strong disagreement over who will be the Prime Minister in this region. What ever happens, one thing for certain is that Egypt will play a key role in the survival of the Gaza strip through the management of the Rafah crossing. However, sadly, the process is a lot slower then we realise from afar and therefore, making it more open, much quicker would make a real difference to the lives of Palestinians living in the Gaza strip.