Gaza Strip Open To Palestinians
Egypt has relaxed restrictions at its border with the Gaza Strip, allowing many Palestinians to cross freely for the first time in four years.
Women, children and men over 40 are now allowed to pass freely. Men aged between 18 and 40 will still require a permit, and trade is prohibited.
The move – strongly opposed by Israel – comes some three months after Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak lost power.
Egypt says the crossing will now be open from 0900 to 2100 every day except Fridays and holidays.
Although the border will still be closed for trade, the opening of the Rafah crossing is expected to provide a major economic boost to Gaza.
Up to 400 Palestinians were estimated to have gathered at the crossing as it opened on Saturday. By contrast, only about 300 Palestinians were previously allowed out of Gaza every day.
One of the first people to cross was Ward Labaa, a 27-year-old woman leaving Gaza for the first time to seek medical treatment in Cairo, the Associated Press reported.
Gaza resident Ali Nahallah, who has not left the Strip for four years, told the BBC the changes would be welcome.
“Of course this is our only entry point from Gaza to the external world,” he said.
“We feel that we live in a big jail in Gaza so now we feel a little bit more comfortable and life is easier now. My kids are willing to travel to see other places other than Gaza.”