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Egypt allows in travellers from Gaza for first time since October

By Reuters | December 21st 2014

Egypt opened the Rafah border crossing on Sunday for incoming passengers from the Gaza Strip for the first time in almost two months, Palestinian and Egyptian officials said.

Rafah is the only major crossing between impoverished Gaza, home to 1.8 million Palestinians, and the outside world that does not border Israel, which blockades the strip and allows passage mainly on humanitarian grounds.

Egypt shut the crossing on October 25 after Islamist militants in Egypt's adjacent Sinai region killed 33 members of its security forces in some of the worst anti-state violence since Islamist president Mohamed Mursi was toppled in July 2013.

Since then, Cairo has opened the crossing only twice to allow thousands of Palestinians stranded in Egypt and beyond to return to Gaza, which is dominated by the Islamist Hamas faction.

Hamas has long had ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, which was ousted from power in Egypt when Mursi was overthrown, but its relations with the current Egyptian government are tense.

Maher Abu Sabha, the Hamas-appointed director of crossings, said Rafah would open for two days to allow Gazans with serious illnesses to travel to Egypt and beyond for treatment and to allow foreign nationals and students to travel.

An Egyptian official, citing "security reasons", said there was no decision yet to allow the permanent and full opening of the crossing as was the case before October 25.

Hamas's leaders have distanced themselves from violence in Egypt and in Sinai and say they have no armed presence in areas outside Palestinian boundaries.

Some children stood by the fence, while others sat or slept over luggage that piled up outside the gate as their families awaited to pass.

"I have been waiting for three months to leave, this is very bad," said Mnwar Shaath, 58, a Palestinian woman clad in a long black robe who lives in Saudi Arabia and came to visit family in Gaza.

"I am sick and I was afraid I may die here, away from my children, I want to go back and die among them," she said.


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