Palestinian ministers allowed out of Gaza for cabinet meeting

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (C) with the members of the Palestinian unity government. (File photo: AFP)

Israel allowed two Gaza-based Palestinian ministers to travel to the West Bank for a cabinet meeting Thursday for the first time since the unity government took office in June, officials said.

Housing minister Mufid Hasayneh and justice minister Salim al-Saqa passed through the Israeli-controlled Erez border crossing and arrived in Ramallah, government spokesman Ihab Bseiso told AFP.

“It is the first time they have done so since the government was formed,” he said.

Israeli authorities confirmed the ministers had been allowed to travel to the West Bank but gave no indication why the restrictions were eased.

The international community has urged Israel to lift its blockade of the strip, which includes travel and goods restrictions, warning of a worsening security situation and eventual explosion of violence if it remains in place.

Of the 17-member Palestinian cabinet, four are based in Gaza and the rest in the West Bank, where President Mahmud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority (PA) has its headquarters.

The government was formed on the back of a unity deal between the Palestine Liberation Organization, which dominates the PA, and Hamas, which controls Gaza.

The cabinet of independents, agreed on by both sides, has until now had to meet without its Gaza ministers, due to Israeli travel restrictions.

Israel blocked Gaza ministers’ travel after the government was sworn in, slamming the PA for signing an agreement with Israel’s sworn enemy Hamas.

Last Update: Thursday, 26 February 2015 KSA 19:44 - GMT 16:44