RAFAH BORDER, Gaza Strip – Israel reopened the border crossing between Gaza (search) and Egypt (search) on Friday, allowing some 1,500 Palestinians to head home after being stranded in Egypt for three weeks.
The first busload of Palestinians crossed into Gaza early Friday, Palestinians said. The army confirmed the crossing was open.
Israel (search) closed the border on July 18, saying it had intelligence that Palestinian militants had dug a tunnel under the crossing or a nearby Israeli outpost and were planning to blow it up.
Some 1,500 Palestinians trying to get home through Egypt were stranded in the desert facing severe hardships, including food shortages. Egypt warned this week of a humanitarian crisis.
Early Friday, hundreds of Palestinians arrived from all over the Gaza Strip to welcome their relatives. Peeping through a chain-link fence, they tried to find family members passing through security and passport checks on the Israeli side of the border.
During the three-week shutdown, Israel opened another crossing nearby, but Palestinians refused to use it because they would have been required to pass through Israel to get home.
Under terms of interim peace accords, Israel controls the crossings between the Palestinian territories and neighboring countries.