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Egypt to keep open border with impoverished Gaza

A Palestinian family returns from Egypt to Gaza through Rafah crossing on Monday. Egypt declared it will end its three-year cooperation with Israel on the blockade.

Associated Press

A Palestinian family returns from Egypt to Gaza through Rafah crossing on Monday. Egypt declared it will end its three-year cooperation with Israel on the blockade.

SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt — After three years of cooperating in the Israeli blockade of Gaza, Egypt said Monday it will leave its border with the Palestinian territory open indefinitely for humanitarian aid and restricted travel.

With international pressure building to ease the blockade, an Egyptian security official said sealing off Hamas-ruled Gaza has only bred more militancy.

The decision to ease the restrictions erected by Israel to isolate and punish Hamas comes a week after a deadly Israeli raid on a flotilla of activists trying to break the blockade.

The move restores a link to the outside world for at least some of Gaza's 1.5 million Palestinians. It also appeared calculated to defuse anger in the Arab and Muslim world over Egypt's role in maintaining the blockade and to show that Egypt, too, is now pressing Israel to open at least its land crossings with Gaza.

"Egypt is the one that broke the blockade," Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki said. "We are not going to let the occupying power escape from its responsibilities."

Israel has not publicly protested the Egyptian move, but officials declined to comment.

The United States, which has called the current border restrictions unsustainable, is among those pressing for changes. Vice President Joe Biden met Monday with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh. He released a statement afterward saying the United States is closely consulting with Egypt and other allies to find new ways to "address the humanitarian, economic, security, and political aspects of the situation in Gaza."

In another escalation of the tension off Gaza's shores, Israeli naval forces shot and killed four men wearing wet suits off the coast. The militant group al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade said the men were members of its marine unit training for a mission.

Egypt to keep open border with impoverished Gaza 06/07/10 [Last modified: Monday, June 7, 2010 11:50pm]

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