Egypt opened its largely sealed border with Gaza on Saturday after a reconciliation agreement with Hamas gave the Palestinian Authority control over the crossing for the first time since 2007.
A Palestinian official at the Rafah crossing said it had opened and was expected to stay open for three days.
“Egypt will open the crossing for humanitarian cases registered with the interior ministry,” the official said, adding that civilian and security personnel on the Palestinian side were all employees of the reconciliation government headed by prime minister Rami Hamdallah. Up to 20,000 people from Gaza have applied to enter Egypt. Ten buses had crossed over in the first four hours.
Iyad Abu al-Kheer, 46, who was travelling to Romania through Egypt, said that Gazans were “suffering from a blockade for 11 years.” “All our (medical) treatments and such things have to go through this crossing,” he said.
Kheer expressed hope the border crossing would remain open for good.
“Things are going well and everyone can travel and start their business and their lives,” he said.
Egypt’s border with the Gaza Strip had been totally sealed since August, and was largely closed for years before that.
So far this year the border has been open on 14 days, according to the Hamas-run interior ministry in Gaza.
Under the terms of a Palestinian reconciliation agreement reached last month, Gaza’s Islamist rulers Hamas are supposed to cede civil power to the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority by Dec 1. As a first step, they handed over control of its border crossings on November 1.
The Egypt-brokered deal is expected to lead to more regular opening of the Rafah crossing.
Mufeed al Husayneh, Gaza minister of public works and housing, said the Saturday opening was “the first work of the government of national reconciliation taking over its functions at the Rafah crossing.” “The unity government is ready to carry its responsibilities and roles,” he said.
The head of the Palestinian Authority’s security services Majid Faraj held talks with senior Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar in Gaza on Friday.
All Palestinian factions are due to meet in Cairo next week to discuss ways to move the reconciliation deal forward.
Both Israel and Egypt have maintained blockades of Gaza for years, arguing that they are necessary to isolate Hamas.