altU.S Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice said on Tuesday that Israeli and Palestinian officials have wrapped up a deal on the manning of the Rafah Border Crossing, between the Gaza strip and Egypt.

The deal was reached after marathon talks which were conducted through the night and on Tuesday morning.

Rice considered the deal “a big step forward” in the trouble Israeli-Palestinian relations, and praised the final outcome of the talks.

The Terminal will be opened on November 25, 2005, and the construction of the Gaza seaport would begin.

According to the deal, Palestinian residents will also be allowed to travel between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, in bus convoys through Israel, Israeli online daily Haaretz reported.

The agreement will provide the Palestinian Authority with control over a border for the first time since it was established. This is considered an important step towards Palestinian control over the borders, and a boost to the Palestinian economy.

Israel Radio reported on Tuesday morning, that according to the deal, Palestinian customs officials will be stationed at the Kerem Shalom crossing between Israel and Gaza; Israel will inspect the goods passing through.

At the Rafah crossing, communications will be through a communication center, with videos filming people crossing the Egypt-Gaza border.

The radio also said that the videos will be monitored by Israeli officials; the final decision in the event of a dispute over passage of persons Israel deems suspicious, and the P.A believes that they should be allowed to cross, will be in the hands of the European observers.

Israeli political analysts believe that this deal will also strengthen the position of Mahmoud Abbas ahead of the January 2005 Legislative election, especially amidst the merging power of Hamas.

The marathon talks were conducted at the Jerusalem hotel where Rice was staying; Rice was “shuttling” between the two sides, and on Tuesday morning she met with the Israeli Defense Minister, Shaul Mofaz, to finalize the details.

Rice postponed her departure which from the area Monday in an attempt to make progress before she leaves; she will remain in Jerusalem for another night to further talks with Israeli and Palestinian officials.

On Monday evening, Rice left shortly to Jordan to offer her condolences in the wake of the Amman suicide bombings carried out last week.

Back in the country, she met with several Palestinian and Israeli negotiators overnight on Monday.

Rice is expected to depart later on Tuesday, and will head to South Korea. Quartet’s Middle East envoy, James Wolfensohn, left the country in early morning hours.

It is worth mentioning that Wolfensohn has threatened earlier, to quit as a result of frustration and lack of agreement on the border crossing.