Egypt says the Gaza Strip’s Rafah border crossing, which was due to reopen on Saturday, would remain closed until further notice in the wake of a bloody attack in Egypt’s Sinai that claimed the lives of more than 230 people.
“The Egyptian side informed us that Rafah will not reopen on Saturday because of the tragic events in North Sinai,” an official in the Palestinian enclave, speaking on condition of anonymity, said on Friday. Cairo had earlier announced that it would reopen the crossing for three days, starting from Saturday.
Earlier in the day, Egypt was plunged into a state of shock and grief after armed assailants, whose identities are yet to be known, raided al-Rawdah mosque in the town of Bir al-Abd, 40 kilometers from the North Sinai provincial capital of el-Arish, killing 235 people and wounding over 100 others.
The bombing and shooting attack is the deadliest single incident in the Arab country’s recent history. No individual or group has claimed responsibility for the attack yet, but it had the hallmarks of the Daesh-affiliated Velayat Sinai Takfiri terrorist group, which has claimed responsibility for most of the assaults carried out across the region.
Reports said that Egyptian warplanes conducted a number of airstrikes in Rafah later in the day. The Sinai Peninsula has been under a state of emergency since October 2014, after a deadly terrorist attack that left 33 Egyptian soldiers dead.
On November 18, Egyptian authorities reopened the Rafah crossing for three days after it had been closed for nearly 80 days. The reopening also came after the transfer of control over Gaza crossing points from the Gaza-based Palestinian resistance movement of Hamas to the Palestinian Authority on November 1.
Cairo claimed at the time that it had reopened the gate on humanitarian grounds, and that it meant to reduce the increasing number of people stranded on both sides of the frontier.
Israel has launched two wars on Gaza since Hamas took office in 2007. The Tel Aviv regime maintains a crippling siege on the coastal sliver ever since, leaving many in desperate need of medicine and other humanitarian stuff.