The first busload of Palestinians crossed from Egypt into the Gaza Strip early Friday. Several thousand Palestinians have been stranded there fro three weeks.

According to army radio, the crossing will be open for extra hours Friday and Saturday.

Army Confirms Friday Opening of Rafah border crossing

Army spokesperson confirmed Thursday that Israel will reopen the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the southern Gaza Strip on Friday after a 19-day closure.

Some 2000 Palestinians have gathered day and night at the border for the 19 days closure period in what Human Rights groups described as inhuman conditions; a similar number of Palestinians went back to Egyptian cities, waiting the opening of the border crossing.

Asmany of the people stranded at the crossing are Palestinians returning from Medical treatment in Egyptian hospitals, some were sent back to hospitals, and one woman gave birth at the border crossing.

Egyptian official said earlier Thursday that Israel informed Cairo that that the crossing was to be opened on Friday.

‘ Israel told the Egyptian side that they will reopen it[the crossing] from 8.30 A.M. and for eight hours straight,’ said the Egyptian officials.

Israel closed the crossing on July 19 for security reasons. Israeli security sources claimed information on a possible attack at the crossing and on a tunnel dug underneath the crossing point. After 19 days of search, no tunnel was discovered.

Protests mounted against the prolonged closure of the only available crossing point available to 1.3 million Gaza Strip Palestinians and over the inhuman and grieve conditions of those forced to stay at the Egyptian side of the crossing.

The United States said Monday that it was deeply concerned that thousands of Palestinians are stranded because of the closure.

Egypt called the Israeli Ambassador and demanded an explanation to why Israel had refused to reopen the crossing.

Egypt has also sent letters to UN General Secretary Coffi Anan and the European Union, calling for an immediate intervention to end the suffering stranded Palestinians.

A Palestinian stranded at the crossing told reporters “this is not unusual, no Israeli official would care for suffering inflicted on thousands of innocent Palestinians. Even if the crossing is opened, we still have long waiting periods at military check posts inside Gaza”

“It is too painful for your life to be totally controlled by the enemy. An army officer or even a soldier can decide your destiny, this is too much, and this is unlivable” he added.