Palestinian Figure Urges Egypt to Take Further Steps to Break Gaza Siege.
"No doubt, the reopening of the Rafah border crossing was a significant step that should be admired and appreciated, but this measure should be followed by more significant steps to break the siege of the Gaza Strip, which has afflicted the people of this region with problems for the last four years," Hamas Minister of National Economy Ala al-Rafati said.
Egypt eased travel restrictions for residents of Gaza on Saturday, opening the Rafah crossing on the Sinai-Gaza border after four years.
Egypt announced on Thursday that, as of Saturday, the border crossing will be open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., except for Fridays and official holidays. Palestinian men aged 18 to 40 will need visas to cross. Older men, boys and females of all ages will be able to travel without one.
About 100 Hamas supporters marched with Palestinian and Egyptian flags outside the border terminal in a gesture of gratitude to Egypt.
"This courageous step by Egypt reflects the deep historic relations between the Palestinian and Egyptian nations," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zahri said. "We hope this will be a step in the long process to end the blockade imposed on Gaza."
The siege of Gaza started in June 2007 when Israel imposed a blockade on the Gaza Strip. This was supported by the governments of Egypt and the US.
The blockade consists of a land blockade along Gaza's borders with Egypt and Israel and a sea blockade. It immediately followed the 2006-2007 economic sanctions against the Palestinian National Authority following the election of Hamas to the Palestinian government.
The blockade has attracted criticism from many Human Rights organizations. September 2009 UN fact-finding mission found that the blockade of Gaza "amounted to collective punishment" was likely a war crime and a crime against humanity and recommended that the matter be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC).
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