911 people cross after Rafah border re-opened: MENA

Ahram Online , Wednesday 17 Jul 2013

The Egypt-Gaza border had been closed because of ongoing security problems in Sinai following Morsi's ouster

At least 911 people crossed the borders between Egypt and the Gaza Strip via the Rafah crossing on Tuesday, reported state news agency MENA.

According to a source at the Rafah crossing, around 123 people entered Egypt, while 788 people crossed into Gaza.

The Rafah border was closed on 5 July due to security concerns, hours after an assault on military and police sites in north Sinai. It was later opened on Wednesday for several hours to allow stranded Palestinians to return and foreigners to leave the Gaza Strip.

The passage is the only gateway to the outside world for the 1.7 million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip, which is governed by the Islamist Hamas group, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood movement of ousted Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi.

Tunnels along Egypt's border with the Gaza Strip, which Palestinians used to circumvent the Israeli blockade of the enclave and Egyptian-imposed border restrictions, have also been closed for the past ten days, leading to an acute shortage of food and goods in Gaza, particularly fuel. A crackdown by Egypt's army months ago on the large network of tunnels also exacerbated severe fuel shortages in Gaza.

Last week it was reported that Palestinians who flew into Cairo International Airport to return to the Gaza Strip via the Rafah land crossing were being sent back to the countries they flew into Egypt from, without prior notification.

Following the rise of Islamists to power in post-revolution Egypt and the inauguration of president Mohamed Morsi, rumours about the involvement in Egyptian politics of Palestinians and members of Hamas became commonplace.

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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