A historic day in the Middle East, as the Palestinian Authority opens the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. The long-delayed border agreement is seen as giving a boost to the peace process.
Busloads of joyous Palestinians crossed the Gaza border into Egypt. It was the first time they were able to pass without Israeli security checks in 38 years. Some travelers flashed the victory sign. Palestinians had felt imprisoned in Gaza since the Israeli pullout three months ago, but the opening of the border gives them a rare taste of freedom.
Negotiations to reopen the border had bogged down over Israeli security concerns. But in a compromise that helped clinch a deal, European monitors were deployed to prevent the smuggling of weapons and terrorists. European envoy Marc Otte.
"Today is a great day, and today is an accomplishment, an accomplishment of the cooperation of a number of players, of people of goodwill, who wanted this agreement," Mr. Otte said.
Those players include Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt, the European Union and the United States. Israel says it is an important step toward Palestinian statehood, but spokesman Mark Regev told VOA that the success of the agreement depends on Palestinian efforts to prevent terrorists from exploiting the open border.
"I mean, the Palestinians control Gaza, and I think we're all now expecting that they act responsibly," said Mark Regev.
The border agreement is the first major boost to the peace process since the Israeli pullout from Gaza. And while the Islamic militant group Hamas opposes the peace process, it, too, praised the agreement.
"The opening of the border is a step toward freedom and the achievement of Palestinian rights," said Hamas leader Ismail Haniya.
The agreement gives a boost to moderate Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, ahead of landmark parliamentary elections in January. The ruling Fatah movement of Mr. Abbas is facing a stiff challenge from Hamas, a group responsible for dozens of deadly suicide bombings, and which seeks the destruction of Israel.
Mr. Abbas can now present a tangible achievement to his people, showing that the peace process can improve their lives.