Egypt has permanently ended the closure of the Rafah Crossing into Gaza, effectively ending a four-year isolation of the territory and its Hamas government. Israel, which led the blockade to cut off the terrorist organization, called the move "a dangerous development," although not contrary to the provisions of the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty.
Egypt will open the crossing starting Saturday from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. every day except Fridays and holidays, according to the BBC. The move also is symbolic of the increasing ties between the Hamas and the new Egyptian government, which recently said it would recognize an unilateral decision to declare a Palestinian state. Egypt also advised the United States to back a Palestinian declaration, even though Hamas has promised it will not recognize Israel and will not relinquish terror.
The opening of the territory means more open shipping of goods into Gaza and greater freedom of movement for Hamas members and terrorists connected to the rising Salafi extremists in the territories. "Palestinian women of all ages will be exempted from visas as will men under 18 or over 40," the Egyptian state news agency MENA reported.
Hamas expressed its strong satisfaction with the move. "The Egyptian decision to open the Rafah crossing in a permanent way is a courageous initiative and a new success for the Egyptian revolution, after the successful completion of Palestinian reconciliation," said Hamas political member Izzat al-Rishq, in an Arabic-language article on the website of Hamas' Information Office.
"In a related context, the leadership denounced the repeated Zionist attacks on the historical character of Jerusalem, stressing that such attacks will not exceed the determination of the Palestinian people in its adherence its land and defense of its rights," the article added.
On the other hand, Israel expressed concerns about smuggling and security. "This is a dangerous development that could lead to weapons and al-Qaida smuggling into Gaza," Vice Premier Silvan Shalom said.
There was no reaction from American officials at publication time.