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Gaza official says Egypt working to fix Rafah delays

June 27, 2011 2:43 A.M. (Updated: June 28, 2011 7:15 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma’an) -- The head of the crossings authority in Gaza said Sunday that Egyptian authorities have begun implementing a new mechanism at the Rafah crossing to alleviate a backlog in travel.

Hatem E’weidah said the new protocol would take into consideration emergency cases and persons whose residencies expire in June.

E’weidah said that Egyptian authorities were still committed to facilitating travel, as they have pledged, except for the number of people crossing each day. "This has led to a huge crisis," he said.

"The issue that prevented the Egyptians from allowing large numbers of travelers via the crossing was due to logistical obstacles including decreasing state security staff" after the revolution.

The opening of the terminal, more than three months after former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak resigned following 18 days of massive street protests against his rule, was warmly welcomed in the coastal strip and the Egyptian street, though Israel strongly criticized the move.

Shortly after the terminal was opened, Egyptian and Gaza authorities clashed over coordination and travel mechanisms, causing a temporary re-closure, before the sides agreed to limit travelers and other mechanisms.

The border had remained largely shut since June 2006 when Israel imposed a tight blockade on Gaza after militants snatched Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who is still being held.

The government in Gaza is working on speeding up approval for those Palestinians who have been returned to Gaza due to unspecified security concerns, E’weidah added.

While the terminal was opened by Egyptian authorities on May 28 for visa-free passage of travelers, bar males between 18 and 40 and up to 5,000 individuals specified on a blacklist, Egypt has set a cap of around 300 to 400 travelers per day.

A registration process to the Gaza Ministry of Interior has been overwhelmed by applicants and had been closed temporarily.

Also, an Egyptian consulate will be opened in the near future, he added.
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