Gaza’s Hamas rulers on Tuesday sharply criticised Egypt’s closure of the Rafah border crossing, saying Cairo’s tightening of restrictions on the Palestinian territory was a “crime against humanity.”
“The Egyptian authorities’ insistence on closing the Rafah crossing and tightening the Gaza blockade… is a crime against humanity by all standards and a crime against the Palestinian people,” Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhum said in a statement.
He condemned “the continuation of this blockade and closing the crossing, all whilst Israel escalates and (increases) aggression”.
“We hold all parties to the blockade of Gaza completely responsible for the consequences of this crime,” he said.
Egypt has severely restricted access through the border city of Rafah — Gaza’s only gateway to the world that is not controlled by Israel — ostensibly for security reasons.
The Hamas interior ministry says Rafah, for many Gazans the only passage in and out of the Strip and a crucial crossing for supplies, has now been closed for 39 straight days.
The UN slammed closures to Gaza’s border crossings, expressing concern for Gazans in need of medical treatment.
“Extremely limited movement in and out of Gaza from (Israeli-controlled) Erez and Rafah crossings continues to afflict the civilian population, including patients awaiting medical treatment,” UN under-secretary general for political affairs Jeffrey Feltman said in a Tuesday briefing to the Security Council.
“Recurrent drug and medical equipment shortages are affecting the Gaza medical system, further increasing the number of patients seeking referral outside for medical conditions that could have been treated inside Gaza, were supplies available.”
Rafah is located in north Sinai, where militants have killed scores of Egyptian police and soldiers since the military ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July.
Egypt’s military said on Wednesday that it had destroyed 1,370 smuggling tunnels under its border with the Gaza Strip, as ties with Hamas have soured.
Hamas is affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood, to which the ousted Egyptian president belongs.
The military-installed government in Cairo has accused Hamas of colluding with militants in Egypt.
The tunnels, under the town of Rafah, are used to transfer food, fuel and consumer products into the densely populated Palestinian enclave.
But Hamas and other militant groups reportedly use their own more secret tunnels to bring in arms and money.
Gaza has been under blockade since 2006, when militants captured an Israeli soldier in a cross-border raid.