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Rafah crossing open Sunday to allow Hajj pilgrims returning from Mecca

Oct. 5, 2008 9:59 A.M. (Updated: Oct. 5, 2008 9:59 A.M.)
Gaza - Ma'an - Egyptian authorities will open the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the the Gaza Strip on Sunday to allow the first group of Hajj pilgrims returning from Mecca to return home.

A spokesperson of the de facto government Interior Ministry in Gaza, Eyhab Al-Ghussein, says the Egyptians have informed the Palestinian side that the crossing will be open today for pilgrims only. According to Al-Ghussein, 70 pilgrims will cross today, 140 on Tuesday and 100 will cross on Wednesday. Egyptian officials said nothing about opening the crossing in both directions to allow passage of students stuck in the Gaza Strip to leave to Egypt.

The crossing was opened for one day during the third quarter of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, and 1,200 Hajj pilgrims crossed en route to Saudi Arabia. Though it was supposed to remain open to allow students to cross into Egypt, Egyptian officials closed the crossing the next day without giving a reason.

The crossing has been closed to ordinary traffic since June 2006, although Egypt occasionally allows those with special permits, including Muslim pilgrims, to cross.

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