Israel on Saturday announced the end of its closure of the Gaza Strip, imposed after a suicide bombing on Wednesday in which a Palestinian woman killed four Israelis at a busy crossing point into Israel.
A military statement said the lifting of the closure, ordered after a review of the security situation in the strip, meant Palestinian workers and traders could now enter Israel and an industrial zone near the Erez crossing.
About 15,000 Palestinian workers and another 4,000 merchants from Gaza have permits to cross the Erez checkpoint to reach jobs inside Israel. The number varies with the security situation.
US officials are pressing the Palestinians to find those behind a deadly bomb attack on a US diplomatic convoy three months ago, and warn that lack of progress may harm American aid programs in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, a Palestinian Cabinet minister said on Saturday.
A senior Palestinian security official involved in the investigation said no substantial leads have emerged.
A US Embassy official said Palestinian authorities have not fully cooperated with the probe into the Oct. 15 roadside blast that ripped apart a diplomatic car in the Gaza Strip and killed three American security guards.
Travel of US officials to the West Bank and Gaza has been suspended since the bombing, an unprecedented attack on Americans in Palestinian areas since the outbreak of fighting more than three years ago.
Palestinian Cabinet Minister Saeb Erekat said he discussed the investigation last week with US officials who told him lack of progress would hamper aid work, though they did not directly threaten to scale back assistance.
"They said they can't get to Gaza and the West Bank and this would affect their work," Erekat said.
"I urged them not to link these two issues," Erekat said, adding that he believes the Palestinians are cooperating fully in the investigation. "I don't think it's appropriate or advisable to cut aid to Gaza and the West Bank in these circumstances."
In jeopardy, Erekat said, is a key US Agency for International Development project to improve access to running water for 2 million Palestinians. USAID, which has funneled US$1.3 billion in economic and humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians over the past decade, is scheduled to award contracts next month for the water project, Erekat said.
The US Embassy official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that "we're not entirely satisfied with Palestinian cooperation." He said there has been some progress, "but we want to see more."
He refused to comment on whether American aid would be scaled back.
The US State Department has offered a US$5 million reward for information that leads to the attackers, and teams of FBI explosives and forensics specialists have visited the site of the blast and met with Palestinian security officials.
In the days just after the bombing, Palestinian police detained seven members of a rogue militant group, the Popular Resistance Committees, and briefed the US team on the questioning of the detainees.
A high-ranking Palestinian security official said on Saturday that no new leads have emerged since then.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the hunt was difficult because the assailants were professionals who meticulously planned and executed the attack before vanishing without a trace.