No sooner had Egypt lowered the drawbridge at Rafah, letting the people of the Gaza Strip cross into Egypt and from there to the rest of the world, than its ruling military council began winding it up again. On May 31st Egypt’s transitional government imposed a quota of no more than 400 passengers a day, insisted that they register the day before they cross, and declared that it was reinstating a blacklist of 5,000 Gazans who would not, for security reasons, be allowed to come over. This cut the flow to little more than when Hosni Mubarak, who was ousted as president in February, co-operated with Israel to keep Gaza under siege.
After a brief bout of jubilation at the restoration of the freedom to travel, the cutback brought back the Gazans’ old sense of imprisonment. Busloads of passengers who had waited all day to cross into Egypt trundled back, defeated, their bags in tow. Among them was a couple in their 60s trying to get medical treatment in Egypt; a 40-year-old who had waited 16 years to see his mother in Cairo; and a Palestinian in a brown Islamic robe trying to return to his home in Libya’s eastern town, Darna, which has a reputation as a jihadist haunt. To his fury, the Egyptian authorities let his brother with a shorter beard enter.
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