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Hamas plans demonstration urging Egypt to open Rafah crossing

Aug. 9, 2008 5:49 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 9, 2008 5:49 P.M.)
Gaza - Ma'an - Hamas will stage a demonstration at the Rafah border crossing on Sunday to urge Egypt to reopen the border.

The spokesperson of the popular action branch of Hamas, Ashraf Abu Dayeh said the demonstration will send the message to Egypt and the broader Arab and Muslim world, there is no excuse for keeping the border closed at the expense of the 1.5 million residents of the Gaza Strip who have been trapped inside for over a year.

More than 230 Palestinians have died since the beginning of the closure as a result of being denied permission to leave Gaza for medical treatment, Abu Dayeh said.

The rally will begin at 10am on Sunday. Hamas will provide transportation to the demonstrators.

The Rafah border has been closed since June 2007, when Israel began a blockade of the Gaza Strip following Hamas' takeover of the territory. Under pressure from Israel, Egypt has kept the border sealed.

In January, Palestinians undermined the border wall with explosives, then poured accross the border by the tens of thousands. The mass act of disobedience followed a period of severe closure in which Israel blocked supplies of fuel, food, and medicine.

According to the terms of an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire that went into effect in June, Israel and Hamas were to negotiate a plan to open the Rafah crossing, but those talks stalled in July.

In 2005 Israel agreed to allow Egypt and the Palestinian Authority to administer the crossing with a delegation of European observers tasked with monitoring the border. Because the European team was based in Israel, the Israeli government maintained the power to open and close the crossing simply by preventing the Europeans from reaching Rafah.

***Updated at 18:05 Bethlehem time

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