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Egypt pledges to open Rafah crossing before Ramadan; Israel reopens crossings

Aug. 28, 2008 10:27 A.M. (Updated: Aug. 28, 2008 10:27 A.M.)
Bethlehem - Ma'an - Egypt will open the Rafah crossing with the Gaza Strip on Saturday and Sunday to in order to end the seven-month plight of 200 Egyptians stranded in the Strip.

Palestinian officials in Gaza confirmed that the crossing will also be open to a small number of Palestinians, especially those stranded on the Egyptian side and those in need medical care. The Egyptian gesture coincides with the beginning of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

Two hundred Egyptian citizens, mostly women and children have been trapped in Gaza since January after they crossed into the Strip after Palestinians forced their way through the border in an act of popular disobedience. Egypt resealed the border in February, stranding its own citizens.

The Interior Ministry of the de facto government in Gaza will clarify later this week exactly who will be allowed to cross.

Earlier, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Abu Al-Gheit warned Gazans against storming Rafah border as they did last January: "Who threatens Rafah and tries to storm the crossing with no approval of his country will face an unexpected response."

Meanwhile Israel reopened its commercial and humanitarian crossings with the Gaza Strip on Thursday after two days of closure.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak ordered the reopening. Barak shut down the crossing on Monday night after a homemade projectile reportedly fired from Gaza landed on the Israeli side of the border.

***Updated at 11:40am local time
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