Hundreds of Palestinians crossed the Rafah border between Gaza and Egypt Saturday as Egypt eased restrictions on Palestinian travelers leaving the Gaza strip.
"I feel this is the start of freedom," Hasna el-Reyes, 45, told the New York Times. "You can't imagine how much we have suffered."
The blockade was imposed by Israel four years ago once the militant group Hamas assumed control of Gaza, while Egypt had complied with Israeli security concerns about the transportation of goods into the strip and increased security at the Rafah border crossing accordingly, the Washington Post reported.
Despite allowing about 450 Palestinians to cross by day's end on Saturday, some restrictions remain on the transportation of goods such as cement believed necessary to rebuild damaged infrastructure, while women, children and older citizens may pass into Egypt freely if carrying an Israeli issued Palestinian identification card. Men aged 18-40 still require a permit, reported the New York Times.
"This is good, but we are looking for Egypt to break the siege to allow the shipment of cement and trade," Gamal el-Din told the New York Times.
Previously on a regular day only 300 Palestinians were able to cross but it's hoped the eased restrictions will triple the number of daily travelers crossing the border, Reuters reported.
The Rafah border crossing is the only "door" Gazans have to the outside world not controlled by Israel.
Israel, which controls several other border crossings along the Gaza strip, criticized Egypt's decision to loosen its border controls because the implications threaten Israel's security, the BBC reported.
Israeli officials are concerned unrestricted movement could result in weapons and supplies being smuggled into Gaza to strengthen Hamas' authority and threaten its national security, the Globe and Mail reported.
Egyptian officials have assured their vigilance in monitoring traffic to and from Gaza.
"Opening this door does not mean Egypt wants to allow bombs and explosives...Egypt wants to allow safe passage of individuals who want to conduct their lives," Nabil Shaath, a senior Fatah official visiting the Gaza Strip told Reuters.
Hamas' Interior Ministry estimates over 600 Palestinians have traveled from Gaza to Egypt since Saturday, haaretz.com reports.