Mesir akan membuka selama-lamanya pintu sempadan Rafah yang menghubungkan Gaza dan Mesir. Demikian menurut Menteri Luar Mesir Nabil al-Arabi pada hari Jumaat. Beliau juga menyatakan bahwa keputusan negaranya menutup pintu sempadan itu selama ini adalah satu yang memalukan. Sumber Israel pula menyatakan "perkembangan terbaru yang berlaku adalah suatu yang amat membimbangkan".
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Arabi told Al-Jazeera Egypt would take "important steps to help ease the blockade on Gaza in the few days to come," according to the Arabic-language satellite channel.
He said Egypt would no longer accept that the Rafah border -- Gaza's only crossing that bypasses Israel -- remain blocked, describing the decision to seal it off as "shameful."
The announcement came days after Gaza's Islamist Hamas rulers and their secular West Bank rivals Fatah, which controls the Palestinian Authority, agreed to end their rift and form an interim government to prepare for elections.
In talks before the deal, the two sides had discussed reopening the crossing after positioning PA representatives at the border, a condition in a US-brokered 2005 border crossing agreement between Israel and the PA.
Senior Hamas official Mahmud Zahar told AFP it was understood the crossing, which under the 2005 agreement was to be monitored by European Union delegates, would be opened after a unity deal.
"It has always been understood that passage was to open as there was an agreement," he said.
Zahar did not say whether the PA would send representatives to the border, a requisite for the presence of the EU monitors under the 2005 accord.
In Jerusalem, a senior official said Israel was "very concerned" about the implications of the Rafah crossing being open.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the official said Hamas had already built up a "dangerous military machine" in northern Sinai which could be further strengthened by opening Rafah.
"We are very concerned about the situation in northern Sinai where Hamas has succeeded in building a dangerous military machine, despite Egyptian efforts to prevent that," he told AFP, without elaborating.
"What power could they amass if Egypt was no longer acting to prevent that build-up?"
Earlier this week, unknown assailants in northern Sinai blew up a gas pipeline supplying Israel and Jordan, the second time it has been sabotaged in 10 weeks.
"We are troubled by the developments in Egypt, by the voices calling to annul the peace treaty, by the rapprochement between Egypt and Iran, and by the upgrading of relations between Egypt and Hamas. These developments potentially have strategic implications for Israel's national security," the Israeli source said.
Palestinian officials welcomed the move, with chief negotiator Saeb Erakat saying it was one step towards loosening the siege on the Gaza Strip.
"We welcome this step by Egypt. We have been pressing them all the time to end the suffering of the people in Gaza, but the real siege is caused by Israel because there are many border crossing with Israel but only one with Egypt," he said.
"We ask Israel to open all the borders to end this crime against the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip," he told AFP.
Hatem Ewidah, the Hamas official in charge of border crossings in Gaza, also welcomed the move, but stressed it was "important to open the commercial crossing with Egypt" to reduce the impact of the blockade.
In a reminder of the border tensions, which is honeycombed with tunnels that supply Gaza with everything from cars and cattle to guns, police announced hours after Arabi's comment that smugglers had shot dead an Egyptian soldier on Thursday.
The border has remained largely shut since June 2006 when Israel imposed a tight blockade on Gaza after militants snatched Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who is still being held.
The blockade was tightened a year later when Hamas seized control of the territory, ousting forces loyal to the Western-backed PA.
The United Nations has called the blockade illegal and repeatedly demanded it be lifted.
Egypt has actively supported Israel's blockade, frequently coming in for harsh regional criticism for keeping the border closed and for building an underground wall in a bid to curb smuggling, which it views as a security risk.
But earlier this year, mass street protests led to the overthrow of president Hosni Mubarak, with the new military regime keen to review its policy on Gaza.