CAIRO -- Egypt will open its only crossing with the Gaza Strip this weekend, the military government announced yesterday, significantly easing a four-year blockade on the Hamas-ruled territory but setting up a potential conflict with Israel.
Egypt's official Middle East News Agency said the Rafah border crossing would be opened permanently starting Saturday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., daily except for Fridays and holidays.
This gives Gaza Palestinians a way to freely enter and exit their territory for the first time since 2007, when Hamas overran the territory, and Israel and Egypt closed the crossings.
Israel's crossings are more significant, as they handle the most cargo. A year ago, Israel significantly eased its restrictions on cargo entering Gaza, but it still severely limits entry and exit of Gazans through its northern crossing into Israel.
MENA said the decision to open the Rafah crossing was part of efforts "to end the status of the Palestinian division and achieve national reconciliation."
The statement said rules in effect before the blockade would be reinstated. At that time, European observers had a role in operating the crossing, and Israel monitored people and cargo to keep out militants and weapons. -- AP