The US Secretary of State has announced a crucial deal on a Gaza border crossing after brokering marathon talks between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators.
Condoleeza Rice said she understood Israel’s security concerns but made clear the accord was an important step forward for the Middle East peace process. “This agreement allows Palestinians the freedom to move and lead ordinary lives. For the first time since 1967 they have control over who enters and exits their territory,” she said. The deal boosts chances for peacemaking following Israel’s withdrawal in September as access to Gaza is key to strengthening the impoverished strip’s economy. The Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt, the strip’s gateway to the outside world is scheduled to reopening on Nov. 25. The deal also calls for Palestinian convoys to start travelling between Gaza and the West Bank within a month. Israel had conditioned the opening of Rafah on its ability to monitor goods and people passing through, saying it feared arms smuggling across the border to Palestinian militants.