Palestinians in the Gaza Strip celebrated a small victory on Monday as Egyptian officials reportedly announced that Palestinians would no longer need visas to enter Egypt. In abolishing this vestige of Mubarak era cooperation with Israel, the move partly ends a five-year blockade on the Strip, allowing Palestinians from Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem to freely enter Egypt.
Palestinians carried trays of sweets and waved Egyptian flags as they rejoiced at the announcement, which will also end pending deportation orders against Gazans residing inside Egypt. Officials at Cairo airport reportedly received instructions to allow Palestinians of all ages to enter the country.
Despite these celebrations, however, the Egyptian government has yet to make a formal announcement about the move. Ma’an news agency reports that Egyptian authorities are worried about opening the Rafah crossing for Palestinians due to the unstable security situation in the Sinai Peninsula.
Ismail Haniyeh, head of Hamas’ Gaza government, along with other Gazan Islamists, were confident that Egypt’s new president, Mohamed Morsi, would loosen the blockade imposed on Gaza by Israel in 2007 when Hamas took control of the Strip. The land and sea blockade has created severe restriction on the movement of both goods and the 1.7 million residents of Gaza – the most densely populated place on Earth – leading to a humanitarian crisis, in which a large majority of the population has been forced to rely on food aid from humanitarian agencies.