(guardian.co.uk) Hamas praise ‘courageous decision’ to allow Palestinians first free passage out of Gaza for four years
Hundreds of Palestinians are expected to head to the border crossing between Gaza and Egypt on Saturday to take advantage of the first free passage out of the blockaded territory in almost four years.
The opening of the Rafah crossing was agreed by Egypt as part of the reconciliation deal it brokered between rival Palestinian factions Hamasand Fatah last month.
Men aged between 18 and 40 will be excluded from leaving Gaza without an entry visa to Egypt. All others will be able to pass without restrictions. The Rafah crossing will be open from 9am until 5pm daily, excluding Fridays.
Access into and out of Gaza has been highly restricted since Hamas took control of the territory in June 2007. Exit to Egypt has been sporadic and largely limited to people needing medical treatment and students. Many Gazans have family and business connections in Egypt, and a rush of people attempting to cross the border is expected.
Hamas welcomed the move by the Egyptian government. It was “a courageous and responsible decision which falls in line with Palestinian and Egyptian public opinion”, said spokesman Fawzi Barhum in a statement. “We hope that it is a step towards the complete lifting of the siege on Gaza.” Read more…