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Italian solidarity delegation denied entry to Egypt after Gaza visit

Jan. 5, 2014 11:20 A.M. (Updated: Jan. 6, 2014 12:57 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Egyptian authorities on Saturday evening denied Italian solidarity activists entry to Egypt and sent them back to the Gaza Strip after they waited three hours at the Rafah crossing, Gaza officials said.

An official at the Palestinian side of the Rafah crossing told Ma'an that 23 Italian solidarity activists were asked to return to Gaza "because there were no special coordination arrangements for their departure."

The activists were told by the Italian embassy in Cairo to head to Rafah crossing, the official added.

The Italian delegation had been visiting the Gaza Strip since Thursday evening. They came to express solidarity with the besieged coastal enclave and brought with them quantities of medicines and medical aid.

The visitors also paid visits to refugee camps across the Gaza Strip where they met with representatives of civil society organizations and bereaved families.

The Rafah crossing has been the principal connection between Gaza's 1.7 million residents and the outside world since the imposition of an economic blockade by Israel beginning in 2006-7.

The terminal has frequently been shut down or operating at reduced capacity in recent months due to ongoing unrest in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula and political turmoil resulting from former president Mohamed Morsi's ouster by the Egyptian military in July.

Egyptian authorities occasionally open the crossing for a few days at a time to allow people with special cases to travel to Egypt or return to the Gaza Strip. On Sunday, however, it was closed for the tenth day in a row.
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