Egypt opened its sealed border crossing with the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip on Saturday for two, allowing hundreds of people to enter and leave the coastal territory in a goodwill gesture before a holy Muslim month.
Egyptian security and border sources said the Rafah border crossing will remain open for two days to allow Gazans with foreign residence permits and humanitarian cases to cross into Egypt.
“We thank (Egyptian) President Husni Mubarak for opening the crossing today, and we hope it the opening days will be extended,” said Gaza Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, in a statement to the press.
Hamas' interior ministry, eager to demonstrate its ability to control security on the Gaza side of the crossing, did not allow residents to approach the southern passageway on Saturday morning.
Egypt closed the Rafah border crossing after Hamas Islamists seized the Gaza Strip more than a year ago, and hundreds of Egyptian citizens have been stuck in the coastal enclave.
Some 100 people have crossed into Egypt and 200 Palestinians have returned home to Gaza, the Egyptian sources said.
Palestinian officials said more than 500 Egyptians and Gazans with foreign residency permits have already crossed into Egypt and they expect hundreds more to follow.
Hamas wants Egypt to permanently open Rafah to ease an Israel-led blockade, but under a U.S.-brokered agreement signed in November 2005, they cannot do so without the consent of Israel and Hamas-rival Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.