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In Gaza, the opening of the border brings relief and fear



RAFAH BORDER TRIP, Gaza Strip – Shortly after dawn, Hamed al-Shaer came down the narrow staircase of his family's house in southern Gaza, took out a black suitcase and said goodbye to his mother. They hugged each other at the gate and he kissed her hands in a gesture of devotion as she struggled to control her feelings.

"Emigration is better," she said of his plan to return to Saudi Arabia, where he has lived for 13 years

But at dusk he was back, discouraged after his third failed attempt this week blocked Gaza Strip through the congested Rafah crossing.

Egypt has opened Rafah for the duration of the Muslim month of fasting Ramadan, which is temporarily easing a border blockade of Gaza that he has enforced along with Israel over the past 1

1 years. But thousands of people hoping to travel are on a waiting list, a backlog created by long periods of closure, and Egyptian border guards process it at an unbearably slow pace.

Al-Shaer, whose name near the top of the list was released for the trip, became increasingly desperate. If he did not quit until the beginning of June, his residence permit for Saudi Arabia would expire.

"I was shocked," al-Shaer said, adding that after his last failed attempt, he had not returned to his mother's home. because I do not want to hold any more hard farewell speeches.

Despite his fearful ordeal, al-Shaer, 34, considers himself lucky.

Most Gazans can not travel at all under the harsh conditions of blockade that was introduced after the 2007 Islamic militant Hamas group Israel conquers territory

Israel allows only a small number of medical patients, business people and development workers to go each month Egypt opens Rafah sporadically, and those who want to leave Gaza must register with Hamas, patients, students priority given to foreign universities, dual citizens and those resident in third countries.

In recent weeks, the anti-blockades have protested The border between Gaza and Israel, organized by Hamas but driven by the desperation of Gazans, has received new attention directed to the plight of 2 million people in Gaza.

They sin d in a narrow strip of land of only 40 km enclosed kilometers long and ten kilometers wide.

The high number of casualties during the protests – more than 100 Palestinians were killed and more than 3,600 were wounded by the Israeli army fire since the end of March – awarded international efforts to improve new emergency conditions in Gaza

Two senior representatives of the Hamas said that talks are being held on intermediaries such as Switzerland and Norway, where the United Nations should take the lead in improving huma. NAZIARY SITUATION IN GAZA

Egypt pledged to reconsider its post-Ramadan closure policy and the opportunity Hamas officials said on condition of anonymity that they were not allowed

In the last ten years, a stubborn confrontation has prevented fundamental changes in Gaza.

Israel, which together with its western allies considers Hamas a terrorist group, says the blockade is necessary to prevent the development of the arming group. Hamas has refused to disarm or relinquish violence and rejects a key condition for Israel and Egypt to end the blockade.

Hamas's Counterproposals, including a long-term ceasefire with Israel and the cession of power to its political rival, Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has failed to win.

The crippling blockade has deprived Gaza residents of any chance of determining their lives. Surveys show that every second inhabitant of Gaza would emigrate if he had a chance. Two-thirds of his young people are unemployed.

However, the people of Gaza will hardly stand up to Hamas because there is no obvious alternative and because the anger over the blockade is largely directed at Israel and to a lesser extent Egypt. [19659020] Al-Shaer comes from a typical Gaza family where those who can go seek happiness abroad. Three of his brothers work in Saudi Arabia and one in Bahrain. He left Gaza in 2005 before the blockade and settled in the Saudi capital Riyadh. For a year he has been working as a personal chauffeur of a company manager.

In September, he returned to Gaza for a visit for missing his parents who wanted to marry him – what he did in December

When al-Shaer was first registered on the Ministry of Interior's waiting list in the Gaza Strip in November, He was told that it would take more than a year to leave Gaza. Rafah has been closed for 110 days this year while the waiting list has about 25,000 names, though not all are still planning to travel.

He began desperate lobbying, frequently visiting the ministry and even approaching a ministerial official for a neighborhood mosque. Al-Shaer argued that he should leave early so he would not lose his Saudi residence.

For those with money, there is also the option of what Gaza residents sarcastically call "Egyptian Coordination." According to reports, up to $ 3,000 per traveler for Palestinian middlemen claiming to have ties on the Egyptian side. Both Egypt and Hamas are offering bribes, although some travelers have seen people being brought to the front line for "coordination".

Al-Shaer said he could finally convince the Hamas officials that he deserved to be pulled up the waiting list. On Saturday, he was told that he had been cleared for the trip and that he should report the next day to a converted gymnasium that serves as the departure lounge.

His enthusiasm was quickly clouded by worries.

250 travelers a day, about a third of the usual volume in the past. Many travelers had to wait for hours near the border to return the next day.

On Sunday, al-Shaer was in the departure lounge, waiting for his turn. He checked his phone and paced, while Hamas officials – sitting behind a counter and separated from the crowd by a fence – called names. Some travelers waved papers in hopes of attracting the attention of officials.

It was not Al-Shaer's turn this day or that day. Finally, he was able to take a bus to the border on Tuesday, but he and his fellow travelers were turned away at the last minute because the crossing was just around the corner.

On Wednesday morning, he left his parents' home in Khan Younis town around 6:40 am. Four hours later he had reached the Palestinian side of the Rafah Junction and stamped his passport. At noon the bus reached the Egyptian side of the border.

Al-Shaer and the other passengers spent the night there before a bus ride on Thursday on the turbulent Sinai Peninsula, where Egyptian security forces were fighting a revolt by militant Islamists. Travelers from the Gaza Strip can only travel by bus from Rafah to the Egyptian capital of Cairo and the city's airport during the day.

Buses crossing the Sinai have to stop at more than a dozen military checkpoints. Everybody gets off the bus and opens their luggage for inspection. Last fall, al-Shaer needed three days to get from Cairo airport to Rafah.

This time his journey through the Sinai took more than 13 hours. At 20:30, al-Shaer finally crossed the Suez Canal, his bus drove to the airport, where he would try to book a flight after the exhausting journey.

His new wife will remain in Gaza until further notice. He can arrange a Saudi residence permit for them.

Al-Shaer said he left Gaza with mixed feelings – glad that he spent time with his parents and found a wife, but riding at the steep price.

"You can lose your residence, your job, and your future – sacrifice all this just to see your family," he said.

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, transmitted, rewritten or redistributed.


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