“Everyone is happy — this is the dawn of a new era,” Muhammad Dawwas, a journalist from Gaza City, said in an interview.
After four years of a grinding siege that has left Gaza’s 1.5 million inhabitants feeling as though they had become inmates in the world’s largest open-air prison, neighbouring Egypt has decided to open the borders.
Beginning Saturday the crossing in Rafah will become Gaza’s new gateway to the world, eight hours a day, six days a week.
“Finally, we will be able to leave this place for a little while,” said Dawwas. “After all these years we really need a vacation.”
Until now, they could only leave Gaza for humanitarian reasons, or if they could prove they had a visa for third country. Now only men between 18 and 40 must obtain an Egyptian visa, which might take weeks.
“I hope that this news will lead to some change in our ability to travel freely,” said Saadi Samir, a 33-year-old businessman who said he has been waiting for five weeks to get a permit to travel through Egypt to Dubai.
“The new arrangement on the border is a good step, but we still need to see more. All we are looking for is free movement like anyone else in this world.”