Gaza blockade ends: Egyptian authorities open Rafah Crossing permanently Saturday morning after four years, first Gaza bus crosses into Egypt; Palestinians want Cairo to also allow goods to pass through crossing
Latest Update: 05.28.11
Gaza blockade ends - After four years, Egypt has permanently opened the Gaza Strip's main gateway to the outside world.
The Rafah Crossing opened on a permanent basis Saturday, with some 150 Palestinians from Gaza entering Egypt in the morning hours. The first busload of passengers crossed into Egypt at the Rafah terminal, where about 400 Gazans awaited
At this time, the Rafah Crossing is only open to the movement of people. However, the Palestinians demand that authorities in Cairo also allow the regular transfer of goods, and not only humanitarian aid.
Hamas’ Deputy Foreign Minister, Razzi Hamed, said that there are no international observers on the Palestinian side of the crossing as was the case in the past.
“The Palestinian side has not received until now a demand from the Egyptian side; we prefer the crossing to be an Egyptian-Palestinian affair only,” he said.
The deputy minister argued that there was no need for European inspectors to be deployed at the border crossing.
“The Palestinian government monitored the crossing successfully and in a professional, legal manner in line with the rules customary at global land crossings,” he said.
On the Egyptian side, for the first time, there is no massive deployment of local security forces.
Israel monitors situation
Israeli security officials are monitoring the Rafah Crossing's opening and are estimating that Egypt will be keeping the border crossing open for a few hours every day, in a limited fashion.
Defense officials said that messages received from Egypt indicate that there are no plans to open the crossing in a broader manner. The sources noted that at this time, those who are interested in moving from Egypt to Gaza can do so thought underground tunnels and via other means, so the implications of the Rafah crossing's opening are marginal.
"There is no doubt we would have liked to see the Crossing closed, and we'd also like to see Egypt thoroughly handling terror, there and elsewhere. The Egyptians are preoccupied with domestic problems at this time," one official said. "We are monitoring developments there and conveying messages to the relevant parties."
'A disgusting matter'
Egypt and Israel have maintained a blockade over Gaza since 2007 to weaken Hamas following its violent seizure of the area. But after the ouster of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in February, Egypt's new military rulers decided to ease the blockade.
Egypt's Foreign Minister Nabil Elaraby told the Arab satellite channel al-Jazeera late last month that the closure of Rafah crossing was about to end, calling the decision to close it "a disgusting matter."
Earlier this week, Egypt's official news agency, MENA, said that authorities in Cairo set the date for the opening of the crossing as part of efforts "to end the status of the Palestinian division and achieve national reconciliation
Egyptian officials have notified Hamas government in Gaza of the decision, according to which the crossing will be opened for nine hours a day, six days a week. The Egyptians will apply a protocol according to which men ages 18-40 would have to coordinate going through the crossing, but women and children would be exempt from visas.
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