GAZA -- Egypt reopened its borders with the Gaza Strip on Saturday after five days of closure that had prevented people from entering or leaving the Palestinian enclave and deepened its isolation from the rest of the world.
Egypt opened the Rafah crossing for four hours, allowing about 345 Palestinians to leave Gaza and 619 people to enter, many of whom had been stuck for days on the Egyptian side, said Maher Abu Sabha, director of crossings in the Hamas government.
Egypt's military-led government had essentially sealed off the territory, shutting down not only the travel crossing but also hundreds of smuggling tunnels that Gaza relies on for building materials, cheaper fuel, weapons and other products restricted by Israel. Most of the tunnels remained closed.
Traffic through Rafah has been cut by 75 percent since the July 3 ouster of Egypt's Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi, according to Gisha, an Israeli group that tracks the crossing as part of its advocacy for access to Gaza. Rafah is the main crossing point and gateway to the world for most Gaza residents, as Israel generally restricts travel through its Erez crossing at the northern border to medical patients, merchants and foreigners.
During Mr. Morsi's rule, an average of 40,000 people crossed Rafah each month, Gisha records showed, up from about 28,000 per month and 15,000 per month in the two years prior. Over the past seven weeks, Israel has loosened its travel restrictions, but the increase in Erez traffic has made up for less than 10 percent of the drop in Rafah.
Hamas, the militant Islamist faction that controls Gaza, is an offshoot of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood. Mr. Morsi, a former Brotherhood leader, had been an ally of Hamas.
Egyptian officials have said that they closed Rafah out of security concerns, amid problems in the Sinai Peninsula. But many would-be travelers saw the closing as collective punishment by Egypt's new government against Hamas.
Witnesses said more than 1,000 Palestinians were waiting outside the Rafah crossing point on Saturday, hoping to board the buses into the crossing. Mr. Abu Sabha said that Egypt's opening of the crossing for only four hours a day was insufficient.
"As the crossing is open on an emergency plan, we assess the cases in urgent need for travel on a daily basis and send them to the Egyptian side," he said.
Over the past 10 days, Rafah crossing was opened only twice to allow Palestinians stuck on the Egyptian side of the border to return to their homes in Gaza. Exit through Rafah is also limited mainly to medical patients and holders of dual nationalities and residency permits.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.