Thursday, June 3, 2010

Egypt opens Gaza border after Israel ship clash

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GAZA (Reuters) - Egypt will open its border with the Gaza Strip to let Palestinians cross, officials said on Tuesday, following a storm of international criticism of Israel's bloody enforcement at sea of its blockade on the enclave.

The decision, urged by the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas against whom the embargo has been directed, prompted dozens of people to race to the crossing point in the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah, although the gates remained closed.

Officials in Egypt and Gaza said the crossing would open on Wednesday until further notice -- a step seen as an attempt by Cairo to deflect criticism of its role in imposing the blockade.

Rafah is the only point on Gaza's borders not controlled by Israel. Cairo, coordinating with Israel, has opened it only sparingly since Hamas seized control of Gaza three years ago.

Main ImageA permanent opening of the crossing, which runs across a stretch of desert frontier riddled by hundreds of smuggling tunnels, would be a major boost for Hamas and a blow to efforts by Israel and its Western allies to cripple the Islamists.
However, a full, permanent opening is seen as unlikely.

Cairo fears such a move would allow Israel to wash its hands of any responsibility for the territory, which the Jewish state captured from Egypt in the 1967 Middle East war and which the Palestinians want to become part of their future state.

Cairo, which made peace with Israel in 1979, also has strained relations with Hamas, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood movement, Egypt's biggest opposition group.

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