Up to 1,500 travelers were expected to leave Gaza territory through the Rafah crossing on Saturday. The border crossing with Egypt will be open through Sunday to allow Muslim pilgrims to travel.
The Rafah crossing between the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip and Egypt was opened on Saturday to allow hundreds of Muslim pilgrims to leave the besieged territory, Palestinian officials said.
The Hamas-appointed crossing authorities said most of those allowed to leave were pilgrims going to Saudi Arabia for the omra or minor pilgrimage to Mecca, in addition to sick people, students, and holders of foreign passports.
"We expect to process 1,500 travellers today, if there are no obstacles, including 300 sick people in need of treatment abroad and 300 others who hold foreign nationality," Mohammed Adwan, a spokesman for the crossing, said.
He added that the crossing would remain open on Sunday to allow students to leave the impoverished coastal territory to study abroad.
Israel has sealed the Gaza Strip off from all but vital goods since the Islamist movement -- which is pledged to the destruction of the Jewish state -- seized power there in June 2007.
The Rafah crossing with Egypt, Gaza's sole border crossing that bypasses Israel, has been opened only rarely to allow sick people, students, and diplomats to leave the territory of 1.5 million people.
Unlike during past openings, when desperate Gazans had rushed the border and clashed with Hamas and Egyptian security forces, no disturbances were reported.
Travellers boarded buses in Gaza City and Khan Yunis before being driven to the border, and dozens of Hamas security forces fanned out around the crossing to prevent anyone else from approaching.
Date created : 2008-09-20