Egypt border - AP
Egyptian army armored personnel carrier patroling the Egyptian side of the border with the Gaza strip, near the Rafah border crossing in Egypt. Photo by AP
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An Egyptian diplomat said Sunday his country's military leadership is considering loosening the travel restrictions on Palestinians leaving the neighboring Gaza Strip.

Such a change could mark a significant easing of a long-standing blockade of Gaza that has drawn widespread international criticism for its impact on ordinary Palestinians in the coastal enclave.

Working with Israel, former Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak greatly restricted the movement of people and goods out of the coastal strip after Hamas militants seized power in Gaza nearly four years ago. Mubarak was ousted last month.

Yasser Othman, the Egyptian ambassador to the Palestinians, said Sunday no immediate changes are planned. But he said "there are calls" in Egypt to reopen the crossing, and changes will be considered when the situation stabilizes. Israeli officials have expressed fears that an open border would facilitate the movement of militants.

Col. Ayoub Abushaer, a Gaza border official, said Hamas authorities are in "daily contact" with Egyptian officials in the town of Rafah, which straddles the Gaza-Egypt border. All Palestinians voice their hope that there will soon be significant change on travel in and out of Gaza. Israeli officials refused to comment.