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14 Palestinians released from Egyptian custody

Feb. 19, 2011 2:03 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 20, 2011 11:33 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma’an) -- Egyptian authorities released 14 Palestinian prisoners who were arrested on the Gaza-Egypt border, a detainees affairs official said Saturday morning.

Imad Al-Sayyed told Ma'an that the prisoners were released Friday night from the Al-Aqrab and Burj Al-Arab prisons in Cairo.

Their release has been confirmed and they are en route to the Gaza Strip, Al-Sayyed said adding that there were 19 others Palestinians who remained behind bars in Egypt.

Egyptian authorities said Saturday that they would briefly open the Rafah border crossing into Gaza.

The border will open to allow Palestinians stranded in Egypt to return to their homes for the first time since Egypt's uprising began.

Hundreds of Palestinians from Gaza are in Egypt - either at the airport or nearby. Many were turned back because their transfer documents to enter Gaza did not contain appropriate permits to remain in Egypt.

Ghazi Hamad, head of the Gaza crossings authority, said Friday that the Rafah terminal would initially open in one direction. He added that efforts were underway to open it permanently.

The Palestinian ambassador in Cairo, Barakat Al-Farra said the embassy demanded that the crossing open in both directions for medical cases.

The crossing was to open Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Rafah, the only entrance into Gaza that bypasses Israel, has been closed since anti-government protests erupted in Egypt and led to the overthrow of president Hosni Mubarak.

Before he stepped down, Mubarak handed power to a military junta, and Defense Minister Hussein Tantawi has become the country's de facto leader.
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