Egypt says it will indefinitely keep open its long-closed border crossing with the Gaza Strip, distancing itself from the Israeli siege of the impoverished enclave.
The populated coastal sliver, home to some 1.5 million Palestinians, remains under a crippling blockade tightened since 2007 with Israel sealing all its border terminals.
The Rafah border crossing in the south of the territory — the only one not in the hands of Israel — has been closed by Egyptian authorities, making the Cairo government Tel Aviv’s siege partner.
But Egyptian officials opened the crossing immediately after Israel’s May 31 attack on an aid convoy that killed 20 international activists onboard the six-ship fleet.
Egyptian foreign ministry on Monday said the border with Gaza would remain open "until further notice," dismissing Israeli claims that it was Cairo that encouraged Tel Aviv to step up the blockade to press the Gaza-based Hamas government.
"Egypt is the one that broke the blockade," Associated Press on Tuesday quoted the ministry’s spokesman Hossam Zaki as saying. "We are not going to let the occupying power escape from its responsibilities," he stressed.
Only allowing sick people, students and those who are granted permits by the Egyptian security agency, Egypt has yet to permit fully free passage of Palestinians into its territory.
Egypt, like Israel, is preventing construction materials to pass into the beleaguered Gaza Strip, which is in a dire need of reconstruction following a devastating 22-day offensive Israel waged against the impoverished enclave in 2008.