Israel has agreed to allow Palestinians stranded in Egypt for weeks to pass into Israel and then into the Gaza Strip, Palestinian officials said Saturday.
Palestinian Information Minister Riad Maliki said that some of the 6,000 Palestinians who have been waiting in the Egyptian border town of Rafah would be allowed to pass at the beginning of next week.
Government officials in Jerusalem confirmed the report Saturday, saying that the Palestinian would have to go through the Kerem Shalon crossing and undergo security checks before they enter the Strip.
Hamas, which wrested control of the Gaza Strip last month, denounced the deal since it allowed Israel to decide who could enter Gaza. Hamas officials and supporters would presumably not be allowed to enter through Israel.
Israel has already approved a list of 627 Palestinians who will be allowed to cross at the beginning of next week, said a Palestinian Authority official in Egypt.
On Sunday, 100 will cross and the rest will pass on Monday, the official said on condition of anonymity since he was not authorized to discuss the matter with the press.
Hamas opposes deal
The Palestinians have been unable to return to Gaza because of the closure of the Rafah border terminal between Egypt and the Gaza Strip since June 9. The border terminal was jointly controlled by Egypt, Israel, the Palestinians, and overseen by European monitors.
Israel and Egypt have rejected Hamas demands since its bloody takeover in mid-June to have partial control of the terminal.
Hamas denounced the deal, saying the group must have a say in Palestinian movement.
"There is only the Rafah border crossing," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said. "The use of any other
border crossing increases Israeli control over the Gaza Strip."
Hamas had opposed a similar idea in the past, according to which the stranded Palestinians would have crossed through the Israeli-controlled Kerem Shalom passage into the Gaza Strip.
Hamas gunmen attacked the Kerem Shalom crossing with mortar shells in response to the idea. Hundreds of the stranded Palestinians in Egypt have been living in harsh conditions in the Sinai desert.
International aid groups have repeatedly called for their plight to be speedily resolved.
Ronny Sofer contributed to the report