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Palestinians suffer restrictions at Rafah border ahead of Egypt's protests

New security restrictions reduce the number of Palestinians crossing into Egypt, but the border will remain open on Sunday according to Hamas official

Ahram Online, Saturday 29 Jun 2013
Rafah
Rafah border crossing on Egypt-Gaza borders (Photo: Reuters)
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Ghazy Hamad, deputy minister of foreign affairs for the Hamas government, stated on Saturday that Egyptian authorities have not notified the Gaza Strip of any closing of the Rafah border on Sunday, when Egypt will witness mass protests against President Mohamed Morsi.

“We are in continuous communication with Egypt on both the political and security level; however, we have recently noticed a slowness in work at the Rafah border [because of increased restrictions] that caused a notable decrease in the number of travellers from the Gaza Strip,” Hamad said in a press statement.

He went on to explain that previously the number of people crossing from Gaza was almost 1,200 daily, but over the last week the numbers had dropped to between 600 and 650.

“Around 1,200 Palestinians have been returning on a daily basis from Egypt to Gaza in fear of the situation in Egypt,” added Hamad, who went on to say that the tunnels located on the Egypt-Gaza borders, used by Palestinians to transport goods, have witnessed the recent imposition of excessive restrictions by Egyptian authorities.

According to Hamad, the restrictions have led to shortages in some basics products in the Gaza Strip.

Hamad went on to state that the Gaza Strip will never be a source of threats to Egypt, adding that no Palestinian has been convicted of a crime against Egypt.

“The strength of Egypt is the strength of Palestine and its cause,” said Hamad. He added that he hoped that the “current crisis” in Egypt would pass peacefully given that the situation in Egypt directly impacts Gaza.

Following the rise of Islamists to power in post-revolution Egypt and the inauguration of President Mohamed Morsi, negative rumours about the involvement in Egyptian politics of Palestinians and members of Hamas, an ideological offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, have been on the rise.

In March, Al-Ahram Al-Arabi, a state-run Egyptian weekly magazine, sparked controversy by claiming that three Hamas members were responsible for a deadly attack that killed 16 Egyptian border guards near Rafah in the Sinai Peninsula last August.

The claims were vehemently denied by the Hamas government, which asserted its commitment to protecting Egypt’s security, stressing that Palestinians would never forget the "sacrifices" made by Egypt for the Palestinian cause.

The Rafah border was closed in May, after Egyptian guards blocked the border crossing to protest the kidnapping of seven security personnel in Sinai. The crossing was reopened the same month after the personnel were freed by their kidnappers.

The temporary closure of the border left thousands of Palestinian stranded at the crossing.

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