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Egypt turns back 450 people at Rafah crossing

July 31, 2011 9:36 A.M. (Updated: Aug. 1, 2011 7:39 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Egyptian authorities on Saturday turned back 450 people from Gaza at the Rafah border crossing.

The step was believed to be related to the deteriorating security situation in Egypt's Sinai. Five people were killed in clashes which erupted Friday between the army and Islamists in the city of Al-Arish. The unrest spread to Rafah, a city which straddles the Egypt-Gaza border.

The Ministry of Interior in Gaza said in a statement that those who were scheduled to travel on July 21 and on Thursday would be given priority to cross the border on Monday.

The ministry added that those traveling to study, work or seek medical treatment would be given priority to cross the border from Monday.

Gaza residents hailed Egypt's decision to reopen the Rafah border crossing in May, after an uprising overthrew the government of former President Hosni Mubarak.

The decision ended Egypt's cooperation with a Israel's blockade of the coastal enclave.

But since the border reopened, Egypt has closely restricted the number of travelers able to cross each day, leading to repeated requests from Palestinians including the Gaza-based Hamas government for larger travel quotas.

AFP contributed to this report
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