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Egypt to reopen Rafah crossing for 3 days

Aug. 14, 2012 10:18 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 15, 2012 1:50 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Egyptian authorities have decided to open the Rafah crossing for three days from Tuesday, a Gaza official said Monday.

Ayoub Abu Shaar, Gaza director of the Rafah crossing, told Ma'an that Egyptian authorities officially informed the Palestinian side that the border crossing will be re-opened in both directions on Tuesday for three days.

Medical patients, students, visa holders and those with other humanitarian reasons will be able to cross.

Mahir Abu Sabha, director of crossings in the the Hamas-run government, told Ma'an on Monday that Egyptian authorities had promised to reopen the Rafah crossing for the Eid al-Fitr holiday expected to take place this weekend.

Around 3,700 Gazans returned to the coastal enclave on Friday after being stranded in Egypt while the Rafah crossing was closed, the Gaza official said.

After gunmen killed 16 Egyptian border guards on Sunday, Egypt closed its border with the Gaza Strip and sealed smuggling tunnels that provide a lifeline to the besieged territory.

Hamas denied speculation that some of the assailants had crossed from Gaza and has accused Egypt, led since June by an Islamist president, Muhammad Mursi, of imposing collective punishment on the impoverished Palestinians.

"We suffered from the unjust regime of Mubarak that participated in the (Israeli) blockade of Gaza. Why should we suffer now in the era of Egypt's revolution and democracy?" said Hamas Interior Minister Fathi Hammad.

"The Egyptian leadership is requested to order the reopening of the Rafah crossing to alleviate the suffering of Palestinians wanting to travel, students, patients, residents in third countries and pilgrims," he added in a statement.

Israel has for years refused exit visas for all but a tiny minority in Gaza, making Rafah the sole window on the world for almost all of the enclave's 1.7 million Palestinians, with some 800 people a day using the terminal to reach Egypt.

Hamas believed Mursi would usher in a new period of harmony between Gaza and Cairo, but that has yet to materialize because of strategic considerations involving Egypt's 1979 peace treaty with Israel and related military aid from the United States.

Reuters contributed to this report
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