Egypt to temporarily reopen Gaza border crossing

Palestinians queue as they wait for travel permits outside the gates of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt under the control of the Palestinian Authority in the southern Gaza Strip

The Rafah crossing between the besieged Gaza Strip and Egypt is being used a tool to pressure Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to enter into US-backed peace talks with Israel, a Palestinian Authority official has said.

Egypt's border with the Gaza Strip had been totally sealed since August, and was largely closed for years beforehand.

The re-opening of the Rafah crossing on Saturday is part of the reconciliation agreement reached on October 12 in Cairo between Hamas and the PA, which administers the West Bank.

Hamas withdrew from the crossings on November 1, implementing the first step of an Egyptian-brokered deal to end the rift with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party.

The PA announced that the Rafah crossing would be permanently reopened, after years of Cairo allowing only intermittent exit through the vital passageway.

Egypt to temporarily reopen Gaza border crossing
Egypt to temporarily reopen Gaza border crossing

Saturday's opening is temporary, however, with the crossing due to close again on Monday.

Fatah, which is the majority in the PA government, is insisting that the takeover by the Authority be based on the 2005 agreement, which places European peacekeepers at the crossing to ensure security, and Israeli cameras to supervise that no illegal items are brought into Gaza.

Last week, Hamas leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar stated that his organization doesn't intend to dismantle the military wing: "We, as a nation, are still in the process of national liberation and we can not give up our weapons".

Israel and Egypt have maintained a blockade on Gaza to isolate Hamas.

It has fought three wars with Israel since 2008 and the blockaded Gaza Strip has seen deteriorating humanitarian conditions.

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