199 Palestinians allowed to leave Gaza

5 busloads cross into Egypt through Kerem Shalom; Civil Administration says more to leave soon.

jp.services2 (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
Israel let 199 Palestinians out of the blockaded Gaza Strip on Sunday, and an Israeli official said more would be allowed to leave for their countries of residence later this week. Five busloads of Palestinians entered Israeli territory and then crossed into Egypt through the Kerem Shalom border crossing, said Shadi Yassin, a spokesman for the Civil Administration. About 50 others who were expected to pass today are now scheduled to be allowed to leave tomorrow, Yassin said. Security forces prevented two others from leaving Gaza. "We intend to continue to get as many people as possible out of Gaza over the next few days," Yassin said. "This is the first time ever that people have been crossed through Kerem Shalom," a crossing where the borders of Gaza, Egypt and Israel meet. The departure on Sunday at the Erez border crossing from Gaza into Israel was delayed by several dozen Palestinians who blocked the buses and demanded to be let out as well. One of the protesters, Salman Fawaz, 55, said he worked as a construction worker in Saudi Arabia and had been home for a visit when Hamas seized control and the borders closed. His work visa in Saudi Arabia will expire at the end of this month if he can't make it back, he said, but he was not included on the list of those allowed to leave. Fawaz blamed Gaza's Hamas leadership and its rival, the moderate government of President Mahmoud Abbas, which rules the West Bank. "Both are responsible for our suffering," Fawaz said. The protest ended when Palestinian border officials promised that all of the about 5,000 Gazans still waiting to leave would be allowed out within 10 days. "We are pleased to learn that 250 people were (allowed to cross), but this is very minor number of people compared to the general population," said Noga Eitan, spokeswoman for the Gisha Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, an Israeli human rights group. "It's possible to have an effective, efficient mechanism that will get the human beings of Gaza and out of the enormous jail they are in."