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Egyptian Revolutionary Government Lifts Restrictions on Rafah Border Crossing, a Blow to the Israeli Siege of Gaza Strip

Egypt to lift restrictions on Gaza border

Published yesterday (updated) 25/05/2011 21:38 CAIRO (AFP) --

 Egypt will open the Rafah border crossing on a daily basis starting this weekend in a bid to ease the blockade on the Gaza Strip, the official MENA news agency reported Wednesday.

Egyptian authorities will now open the border from "9:00 am to 5:00 pm on a daily basis, except for Fridays and public holidays" starting Saturday, May 28, MENA said.

Egypt will revert to entry rules for Palestinians in place before the blockade was imposed in 2007.

"Palestinian women of all ages will be exempted from visas as will men under 18 or over 40," MENA said.

The exemption also applies to Palestinians entering Egypt for study as long as they have proof of affiliation to an Egyptian university, MENA said.

Although Egypt had been gradually easing restrictions on the Gaza border -- it had been operating five days a week -- Palestinians needed to coordinate with security authorities before entering Egypt.

The Rafah border with Egypt is Gaza's only crossing that bypasses Israel.

Egypt to open Rafah crossing with Gaza on daily basis

CAIRO, May 25, 2011 (Xinhua) --

The Egyptian authorities decided to open the Rafah border crossing with the besieged Gaza Strip on a daily basis starting from Saturday, official news agency MENA reported Wednesday.

The border crossing will open from 9 a.m. (0600 GMT) to 5 p.m. (1400 GMT) everyday except for Fridays and national holidays, MENA reported.

Opening the border comes in line with the Egyptian efforts to end the Palestinian division and fully implement the national reconciliation.

The decision will resume the entry rules for the Palestinians that were applied in 2007 before the blockade of Gaza, and will allow Palestinians in the area to enter and exit their territory freely.

The rules also stipulate a visa exemption for women in all ages and men under 18 or over 40 years old, as well as those who enter Egypt for study.

New trends and approaches manifested in the Egyptian foreign diplomacy after Hosni Mubarak's government was toppled. Egypt eased its relations with Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, with the results appeared through mediating the reconciliation process successfully between the two Palestinian rival factions Fat'h and Hamas.

Easing of Gaza blockade not enable significant projects: EU official

by Fares Akram

GAZA, May 16, 2011 (Xinhua) --

The easing of Israel's restrictions on the Gaza Strip has not allowed mass reconstruction or significant projects to be carried out, a senior European Union official said Monday.

The EU "faces difficulties in implementing humanitarian projects that are already agreed," said Kristalina Georgieva, the EU commissioner for international cooperation, humanitarian aid and crisis response. These programs include the building of schools, houses and infrastructure upgrading.

In June 2010, Israel relaxed Gaza blockade that had been in place since the Islamic Hamas movement took over the coastal enclave by force in June 2007. Hamas hasn't recognized the Jewish state, but Israel eased the closure to calm down international criticism of its raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla, during which nine pro-Palestinian Turks were killed.

The easing allowed more access to consumer goods for people in Gaza, but kept items of dual-use withheld. "We can't easily bring all the goods that are necessary for our humanitarian programs ... this also means that the economy is very restricted," Georgieva said.

Despite the easing, the level of access to goods for Gazans is standing at 35 percent compared to the level that had dominated before Israel imposed the blockade on the Hamas-controlled territory, according to Georgieva.

She called on Israel to allow sheer access for goods and to allow exports from Gaza to enable its economy to function on higher levels.

Georgieva also said that time is good to check if an international agreement on access and movement in Gaza, brokered in 2005, can be revived, especially as Egypt took steps to open the Rafah crossing point for travelers in and out of Gaza. The agreement envisions the deployment of EU monitors as a third party on the crossing.

The EU is the biggest international donor for the Palestinians, with an annual donation of nearly one billion euros (1.41 billion U.S. dollars). Over the past 10 years, the EU has provided about 600 million euros (846 million dollars) only in humanitarian aid to the Palestinians, especially in Gaza where 70 percent of its population get food assistance from it. Before the blockade, only 10 percent of the 1.5 million people in Gaza were beneficiary of the EU's food assistance.

Meanwhile, Georgieva said that Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas should come up with a platform for the new technocratic government "earning the trust of Palestinians, their neighbors and the international community."

The new government will be formed in an agreement between Abbas ' Fatah party and Hamas to restore political unity to Gaza and the Fatah-ruled West Bank, according to an Egyptian-brokered deal.

To be acceptable to the international community, this government should "implement the policies of President Abbas," Georgieva said. Abbas is in "a very critical moment" to be clear with the policies of the new government.

Earlier, Abbas said that peace talks with Israel were the task of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and that the new government will only be responsible for arranging the Palestinian internal affairs and prepare for elections.

Georgieva urged the upcoming government to continue a two-year plan set by Salam Fayyad, the Western-backed Palestinian premier based in the West Bank, to upgrade national institutions and boost the role of law, good governance and private sector.

Georgieva paid a brief visit to Gaza and inspected the sites of some projects the EU implement here. She did not meet any official from Hamas or its administration.

Editor: Fang Yang

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