Egypt today opened the Rafah border crossing with the Gaza Strip until further notice, Egyptian and Palestinian sources said, a move described as an incentive for reconciliation between the main Palestinian factions meeting in Cairo, Reuters reported.
Leaders of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah faction, which controls the West Bank, and of Hamas, which governs the besieged Gaza Strip, began Egyptian-brokered talks yesterday to address long-standing divisions ahead of elections planned for later this year.
The 365 square kilometre (141 square mile) Gaza Strip is home to around two million Palestinians. An Israeli-led, Egyptian backed, the blockade has put restrictions on the movement of people and goods since 2007.
Egypt had opened the Rafah crossing intermittently to allow stranded travellers, students, and those in need of urgent medical care to pass.
The crossing was opened early today and a bus carrying Palestinians arrived in Egypt, two Egyptian sources at the crossing said.
Rafah will remain open "until further notice", one source at the checkpoint and an Egyptian security source said.
The Palestinian embassy in Cairo said Egypt had decided to open the crossing as a result of "intensive and bilateral talks between the Palestinian and Egyptian leaderships to facilitate the passage of Palestinians to and from the Gaza Strip".
Palestinian sources attending the Cairo talks said they had been told by Egyptian intelligence officials that the move was designed to create a better atmosphere at the negotiations.
The current round of talks is due to end today.