News / Middle East

Egypt Eases Restrictions on Gaza Border Crossings

Palestinians wait at the Egyptian passport administration at Rafah crossing port, May 28, 2011
Palestinians wait at the Egyptian passport administration at Rafah crossing port, May 28, 2011

Multimedia

Audio

Egypt has eased restrictions on border crossings for pedestrians from the Gaza Strip.  Palestinians see it as a big step toward ending  a four-year-old blockade that Israel and Egypt have imposed on the enclave. Palestinians with proper documentation from the Gaza Strip can pass freely into Egypt Sunday after the Egyptian government eased restrictions on its border with Gaza.

A Palestinian border policeman puts a stamp on the passport of Mahmoud al-Hams, a Gaza resident who says he has not left the enclave for years. He is among the first of hundreds who arrived at the Rafah border terminal Saturday before boarding a shuttle bus that would take him past a gate into Egypt.

He says he is very happy that he can finally go out and see the world.

Egypt began easing restrictions on this border crossing earlier this year following the ouster of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, opening this crossing sporadically for those with special permits that were granted on the basis of medical and other needs.

Now, the crossing is supposed to have regular hours and be open generally to anyone other than men between the ages of 18 and 40.  

Those crossing on Saturday hailed the loosening of restrictions as a relief after years of a closure imposed by Israel and Egypt.  Gaza resident Sabri Matar is going to Egypt for medical treatment. He thanks the Egyptians for understanding the suffering of the Palestinians and opening this crossing.

Egypt under Mubarak cooperated with Israel's closure of the Gaza Strip following a violent takeover of Gaza by the militant Islamist group Hamas. The group, considered a terrorist organization by the United States and others, was also viewed as a threat by Mubarak.

Egypt decided to ease restrictions after Hamas recently signed a reconciliation agreement with the rival Fatah faction that runs the West Bank.

Hamas sees the interim government that replaced Mubarak as more sympathetic to the Palestinians' cause, and on Saturday praised Egyptians' decision to loosen restrictions.

Speaking at the border crossing Saturday, Ghazi Hamad, a senior Hamas official, called it the start of a new era of freedom for the people of Gaza and of closer cooperation with Egypt.

"The crossing is a fruit [of] the Egyptian revolution and a fruit of the reconciliation. I hope the opening of the crossing will support the reconciliation, first of all, and support the relationship between the Egyptians and the Palestinians,” he said.

Israel is watching events on the border with concern.  Israeli officials have warned that Egypt's loosening of restrictions could open the way for terrorists and arms smugglers.  

The loosening of the border crossing restrictions applies only to pedestrians.  Along with Israel, Egypt continues to restrict the passage of most goods and vehicles into the Gaza Strip.

Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs