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Egypt closes Gaza border after rare 3-day opening: Hamas

AFP , Tuesday 16 Feb 2016
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Nearly 2,500 people left Gaza during a three-day humanitarian opening of the border with Egypt, a rare opportunity for Gazans to leave the blockaded enclave, authorities in the Palestinian territory said Tuesday.

The Hamas-run interior ministry in Gaza said 2,439 people left the territory over the three days, while 1,122 entered and 334 were turned back by Egyptian authorities.

The border was closed again on Tuesday, a ministry statement said, after "Egyptian authorities informed us of the shutting down of the Rafah crossing."

Egypt originally opened the border for humanitarian cases for two days from Saturday but that was extended for an extra day on Monday.

Before Saturday, the crossing had been closed for 70 days, the ministry said.

The United Nations has registered 30,000 Palestinians as "humanitarian cases" seeking to leave Gaza.

At the crossing, long lines of Gazans queued, many carrying heavy suitcases.

The crossing is Gaza's only access point not controlled by Israel, which has maintained a blockade on the territory for nearly a decade.

In 2012, nearly 35,000 travellers used the Rafah crossing each month, according to the UN. In 2015, the monthly average fell to less than 2,400.

Historically many young Gazan studied in Egypt, while many Palestinians visited their families on the other side of the border.

Egypt has been fighting Islamist militancy in the North Sinai region. Destroying the underground tunnels leading in and out of Gaza was one of several counter-terrorism measures the Egyptian state has adopted.

Egypt sees the tunnels as a pathway for arms and militants that it perceives as a direct threat to the country's security.

However, the Palestinian Centre for Humans Rights said in 2013 that goods imported to Gaza "through tunnels, especially foodstuffs, medicines, fuel, construction materials and cars, have spared the Gaza strip the breakdown of all vital sectors."

*This story has been edited by Ahram Online 

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