A ceremony marking the re-opening of Gaza’s link to the outside world has taken place at the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the Palestinian territory.It was closed by the Israelis three months ago after their withdrawal from the Palestinian territory, which they had occupied for 38 years. Palestinians see the re-opening as a symbolic step towards statehood – a view reflected in the ceremony overseen by President Mahmoud Abbas. It follows lengthy negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis, who fear militants might try to smuggle weapons across the frontier. The deal, brokered by the US, involves the monitoring of the checkpoint by EU officials. Rafah is regarded as vital for the economic life of Gaza as it is the only transit route in and out of the tiny coastal strip. The agreement could give Abbas a boost in parliamentary elections in January. He faces a strong challenge from the political wing of the Hamas militant group.