Relief as Egypt opens Gaza crossing

2011-05-28 12:27

Rafah - After four years, Egypt on Saturday permanently opened the Gaza Strip's main gateway to the outside world, bringing long-awaited relief to the territory's Palestinian population and a significant achievement for the area's ruling Hamas militant group.

The reopening of the Rafah border crossing eases an Egyptian blockade of Gaza that has prevented the vast majority of the densely populated area's 1.5 million people from being able to travel abroad. The closure, along with an Israeli blockade of its borders with Gaza, has fuelled an economic crisis in the territory.

But Saturday's move also raises Israeli fears that militants will be able to move freely in and out of Gaza.

Highlighting those fears, the Israeli army said militants from inside Gaza fired a mortar shell into southern Israel overnight. There were no injuries, and Israel did not respond.

Israel and Egypt imposed the blockade after Hamas seized control of Gaza in June 2007. The closure, which also included tight Israeli restrictions at its cargo crossings with Gaza and a naval blockade, was meant to weaken Hamas, an Islamic militant group that opposes peace with Israel.

But since the ouster of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in February, Egypt's new leadership has vowed to ease the blockade and improve relations with the Palestinians.

The Rafah border terminal has functioned at limited capacity for months. Travel has been restricted to certain classes of people, such as students, businessmen or medical patients. And the crossing was often subject to closures. Travel through Israel's passenger crossing with Gaza is extremely rare.

Under the new system, most restrictions are being lifted, and a much larger number of Palestinians are expected to be able to cross each day, easing a backlog that can force people to wait for months.

Some 400 people had gathered at Rafah early on Saturday as the first bus load of passengers crossed the border. Two Egyptian officers stood guard next to a large Egyptian flag atop the border gate as the vehicle passed through.

Among the first passengers to cross was Ward Labaa, a 27-year-old woman who was leaving Gaza for the first time in her life to seek medical care for a stomach ailment at a Cairo hospital.

More buses crossed Rafah later, dragging blue carts attached to the rear, with luggage piled high.

Salama Baraka, the chief Palestinian officer at the Gaza side of the Rafah terminal, said travel has been limited to about 300 passengers a day.

He said it was unclear how many people would pass through on Saturday, but that officials hoped to get about three days' worth of people, or roughly 900, across.

  • mary999 - 2011-05-28 13:14

    Go Egyt! God is with you and will reward you for your efforts to help the oppressed!

      MrsM - 2011-05-28 14:02

      The so called oppressed are the same terrorists who threaten the very existance of the Jews! (In their own country by the way!!!) May Adonai protect his chosen people against the bomb/mortar attacks that will definitely increase now that this border is opened. Shalom!

      Palestine - 2011-05-28 14:35

      Its excellent news , MrsM your comments show just how hypocritical the Zionist are , you say you want democracy and freedom but you supported the hostile dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak. The Israelis have murdered and stolen land from 63yrs now , i think the holocaust was a walk in the park compared to this filthy Israeli regime you support

      nateco - 2011-05-28 16:23

      Palestine u seriously need to recheck your facts! Israel has never stolen land from anyone in fact it is the only country in the world with a UN document confirming its statehood. I think the borders should be freed as everyone deserves the right to freedom of movement, however, concerns raised by the Israelis are valid as over and over we see that Hamas cannot be taken as an ally in the peace process and undoubtedly this opening of the borders will not only benefit those that deserve it but also the terrorists continuing this violence in the middle east! As for your comment about the holocaust. This shows what an uneducated hateful person you are. 6 million jews and many more millions of other people, probably some muslims too were exterminated by the nazis. The israeli army has a proven track record of attempting to limit the deaths of innocent civillians and has in fact performed better than any other army facing the same difficulties. It is rather the barbaric actions of the hamas regime targeting innocent israeli civillians and putting innocent palestinian lives at risk, which should be the target of such a scathing attack!

      tryanything - 2011-05-28 16:36

      So who says that the UN has ANY credibility nowadays?

      THH - 2011-05-28 17:10

      @Palestine watch what you say my friend this is a country founded on zionst virtues and if you dont like maybe you can go run around in the desert.

      darrylv - 2011-05-30 12:01

      nateco: it is you that should get your facts straight...the land that was granted to Israel as part of the 1947 UN resolution is only a small part of the land they currently i am not sure what word is used to justify the further expansion of the Israel state? Furthermore, you say that the Israel army has a proven track record of saving civilian lives...? Do you not remember the 2006 attack on Lebonon? 2000 civilians killed in air raides (women and children) and a further 5000 injured...hardly sounds like they give much thought to the innocent civilians..does it?

  • Deset Rat - 2011-05-28 14:02

    Good news for the terrorists!

  • Huey Freeman - 2011-05-28 15:48

    Predications: Oil prices up or down?

      Huey Freeman - 2011-05-28 15:49

      FFS. I meant 'Predictions' :)

  • - 2011-05-28 17:48

    Quran (48:29) - "Muhammad is the messenger of Allah. And those with him are hard (ruthless) against the disbelievers and merciful among themselves" Islam is not about treating everyone equally. There are two very distinct standards that are applied based on religious status.

  • - 2011-05-28 18:14

    Quran (48:29) - "Muhammad is the messenger of Allah. And those with him are hard (ruthless) against the disbelievers and merciful among themselves" Islam is not about treating everyone equally. There are two very distinct standards that are applied based on religious status.

  • Adam - 2011-05-29 00:03

    and when hamas fires more rockets and israel replies with their toys ull all cry and complain. does the quaran require double standards all the time or only when dealing with infidels who stand up to you people?

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