Ending a four-year blockade, Egypt has permanently reopened a border crossing at Rafah that will give Palestinians in the Gaza Strip the freedom to pass into and out of the territory much more easily. Israel has maintained a military embargo along the Hamas-controlled Gaza coast since June 2007, but it is well known that people and goods have been smuggled in and out through underground tunnels on the Egypt-Gaza border. Egypt has also waived visa requirements for Palestinians entering from everywhere but Libya, and Israel is concerned that Hamas — which has controlled Gaza since 2007 — is gaining too much political legitimacy despite its status as a terrorist organization. As former rivals Fatah and Hamas continue to work toward a unified Palestinian government and ultimately statehood, Egypt’s decision puts Palestinians one step closer to their goal. — KDG


About 300 Palestinians crossed into Egypt this morning, and “it was smooth and easy,” said a Hamas police officer at the crossing who gave his name only as Abu Osama. “If the situation remains as smooth as it was today, I don’t see any future problems.”

Egypt’s decision to scale back crossing restrictions for the Gaza Strip has been welcomed by the Hamas Islamic movement, which controls the Palestinian enclave, while raising concern in Israel that the wider border access poses a security threat.

“We will obviously be looking to preserve security arrangements at the border and hope nothing will be done to allow Hamas to empower itself and to reinforce its terrorist infrastructures,” Yigal Palmor, an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman, said in a phone interview. “The Israeli position has been made known to all relevant authorities, including in Egypt.”

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