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Hamas calls on Egypt to reopen border crossing

Egypt closes Rafah crossing after terrorist attack on Egyptian policemen, accuses Hamas of helping Islamist militants active in Sinai

Reuters , Wednesday 21 Aug 2013
Rafah crossing
Palestinian passengers wait to cross into Egypt at the Rafah crossing in the southern Gaza Strip (Photo: Reuters)
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Palestinian Hamas urged Egypt on Wednesday to reopen the Rafah crossing with the Gaza Strip that was closed after a suspected militant attack on Egyptian policemen near the frontier earlier this week.

Cairo has accused Hamas of interfering in Egyptian affairs and suggested that Palestinians might be helping Islamist militants active in the Sinai peninsula, where 25 policemen were killed in an ambush on Monday.

The Egyptian army, which has long been suspicious of Hamas, has also clamped down on smuggling tunnels that run underneath the desert border between Egypt and Gaza.

"The Palestinian people, the people of Gaza, must not pay the price for any problems or differences inside Egypt," said Ghazi Hamad, deputy foreign minister of the Hamas-run government in the territory.

Morsi's ouster was seen as a major blow to Hamas, especially as the group's ties with traditional allies Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah party have also suffered because it sided with the rebels in the uprising against their one-time friend, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Thousands of Palestinians, including students and patients seeking medical treatment, have been unable to travel to Egypt since the Rafah border crossing was shut.

Hundreds of Palestinians have also been stranded outside the Gaza Strip by the upheaval that has shaken Egypt since the military ousted elected President Mohamed Morsi on July 3 after mass protests against the Muslim Brotherhood leader's rule.

Some 1,200 Gaza residents used to enter Egypt daily before Morsi's ouster, but the figure has dropped to only 300 since he was deposed.

At Rafah, the main window to the world for the 1.7 million Palestinians in the Israeli-blockaded Gaza Strip, several dozen people waited in vain on Wednesday to cross the border into Egypt's Sinai.

Citing security concerns, Israel allows only a limited number of people to travel through its own passenger crossing with the Gaza Strip.

At a news conference on Wednesday, Hamad rejected accusations by some Egyptian officials that Hamas had intervened on Morsi's behalf during violence in Egypt.

Edited by Ahram Online

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