Egypt opens Gaza border crossing for 3 days on humanitarian basis

Palestinians ride in a bus in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza strip prior to their departure for the Rafah border crossing with Egypt

Hamas quit positions at three Gaza crossings and handed them over to Palestinian Authority employees on November 1, in a step seen as vital to encouraging Israel and Egypt to ease their restrictions on the movement of goods and people. Egypt has supported the blockade by closing the Rafah crossing, leaving Palestinian in Gaza no access to the outside world. Ten buses had crossed over in the first four hours.

Egypt has not yet signaled any change to its present policy under which it opens the border crossing three times a week. "Things are going well and everyone can travel and start their business and their lives", he said. The crossing was only opened for three days and will be closed again on Monday.

The Rafah border crossing connects the Gaza Strip with Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, and it had been nearly completely closed since mid-2013.

"The Rafah crossing has become a tool that Egypt and Saudi Arabia use to pressure Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to accept the entry into a new round of US-backed negotiations with Israel", the PA official said, warning that "the negotiations could reach results that may affect the rights of the Palestinians". The Egypt-brokered deal is expected to lead to more regular opening of the Rafah crossing.

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Interior ministry spokesman Iyad al-Bozum told AFP the Rafah crossing from the coastal Palestinian enclave into Egypt would be open from Saturday. "The unity government is ready to carry its responsibilities and roles", he said.

In a related development, the head of the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority's security services arrived in Gaza on Friday.

All Palestinian factions are due to meet in Cairo next week to discuss ways to move reconciliation forward.

Citing security concerns, Egypt and Israel maintain tight restrictions at their Gaza borders.

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