Thousands of Palestinians crossed out of the Gaza Strip and into Egypt early this morning after masked gunmen destroyed most of the border wall, witnesses and Hamas security officials said.
Egyptian guards took no action as people rushed to buy food, fuel, and other supplies that have become scarce in Gaza because of an Israeli blockade, the witnesses and officials said.
Police from Hamas, the Islamic militant party that rules Gaza, also stood by.
Following a blackout that lasted almost two days, Israel transferred fuel to restart Gaza's only electricity plant on Tuesday.
The move eased its five-day blockade of the Palestinian territory amid growing international concerns about a humanitarian crisis.
Then, before dawn this morning, Palestinian gunmen began blowing holes in the 7-mile-long (11-kilometer-long) wall dividing the border town of Rafah (see map).
There were 17 explosions in all, Hamas security officials said. At first, Hamas and Egyptian security officers prevented people from getting through, witnesses said.
But by morning thousands of Gazans had massed at the border and the overwhelmed police began letting people cross.
Across the coastal strip, home to 1.5 million Palestinians, people pushed into buses and piled into rickety pickup trucks heading to Egypt for an opportunity to escape months of isolation.
Israel and Egypt had banned most crossings in and out of the Gaza Strip since Hamas seized control of the territory in June.
Israel then imposed a tight siege almost a week ago in response to increasing rocket attacks on its border communities by Gaza militants.