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Egypt Reopens Gaza Border in Goodwill Gesture


Besieged Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are getting a brief reprieve thanks to a gesture from Egypt. Robert Berger reports from the VOA bureau in Jerusalem.

Egypt reopened its Rafah border crossing with Gaza for the first time in months, allowing hundreds of Palestinians to enter the country. Both Egypt and Israel sealed their borders with Gaza after the Islamic militant group Hamas routed the rival Palestinian Fatah faction and seized control of the territory in a civil war a year ago.

Egypt and Israel oppose the Hamas takeover and want to reinstate an international agreement, in which the more moderate Fatah controls the Rafah crossing with European monitors. Hamas says it should control the border.

Putting the dispute aside, Egypt opened Rafah for two days as a goodwill gesture for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan which begins next week. Palestinians needing medical care, students studying abroad and residents with foreign passports are being allowed into Egypt.

Palestinians welcomed the move. Palestinian analyst Wadia Abu Nasser says the blockade only makes Hamas and the Gaza population more radical.

"I believe the blockade is a backfire," he said. "When you make a blockade or a siege on a non-democratic regime, many times it is counterproductive."

Israel says it won't lift its crippling blockade on Gaza until Hamas renounces violence and recognizes the Jewish state. And Egypt sees open borders as a security threat since Palestinians from Hamas could link up with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood.

So a long-term opening of Gaza's borders does not appear likely anytime soon.


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