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Rafah crossing opens for 2 days

July 10, 2013 11:42 A.M. (Updated: July 11, 2013 9:20 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Egypt reopened the Rafah crossing on Wednesday after a five-day closure, allowing stranded Palestinians to return to the Gaza Strip.

The terminal will reopen in both directions for two days, the Hamas-run Ministry of Interior in Gaza said Tuesday.

For those leaving the Gaza Strip, priority will be given to those with visas for foreign countries, Egyptian citizens and patients who require medical treatment abroad, said Mahir Abu Sabha, Palestinian director of borders and crossings.

Egypt's army closed the terminal on Friday amid unrest in Sinai following the military's ouster of Islamist President Mohamed Mursi.

Two people died in a militant attack on a security checkpoint in North Sinai on Wednesday. Near Rafah, militants shelled a police base with mortar rounds and fired truck-mounted heavy machine gun, and attacked another police checkpoint in the town of El-Arish, some 45 kilometers west of Rafah.

Egyptian director of the Rafah terminal Sami Mitwali said Tuesday that extra security measures would be in place at the terminal and at North Sinai's El-Arish airport.

Rafah crossing is the only exit or entry point to the Gaza Strip, which is under an Israeli land, sea and air blockade. Thousands of Palestinians were left stranded when the terminal closed.

Dozens of Palestinians were held in transfer rooms at Cairo International Airport, while some airlines refused to let Palestinians fly into Egypt as they would not be able to transit to Gaza.

Around 900 Palestinians were stranded in Saudi Arabia after performing the Umrah pilgrimage.

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights said Monday that the closure of Rafah revealed again "the reality of the situation in the Gaza Strip under the policy of collective punishment and the closure of all border crossings by Israeli authorities for more than six years.

The closure denies 1.7 million Palestinians freedom of movement to and from Gaza, the center noted in a statement.

"According to PCHR's observations, hundreds of Palestinians, including dozens of patients, Palestinian families living in other countries and university students who study abroad, have been stuck in Egypt waiting to be allowed to travel back to the Gaza Strip," the PCHR added.
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