GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Egypt reopened its border with the Gaza Strip Monday for the first time in months to allow Muslims from the Palestinian enclave to travel to Mecca for the hajj pilgrimage, authorities said.
“The crossing was reopened this morning for four days in one direction for 2,500 pilgrims,” Hisham Adwan, director of information at the crossings authority of the Hamas-run interior ministry, said.
“About 800 pilgrims will leave the Strip today,” he added, saying they had all already received Saudi visas.
The Rafah crossing with Egypt has been largely closed in recent years apart from occasional openings.
Israel has also maintained a blockade on Gaza for a decade that it says is necessary to stop the Hamas terror group, which rules the strip, from obtaining weapons that could be used to launch attacks on Israel.
Egypt is the only other country with which the sStrip has a land border. Egyptian authorities accuse Hamas of supporting the Islamic State terror group in the country.
But Hamas has moved closer to the Egyptian government in recent months and officials privately hope the Rafah crossing will be at least partially reopened from next month.
One pilgrim who was waiting to cross the border told AFP he had been trying to travel to Mecca since 2014.