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Egypt closes Rafah after stranded Gazans return home

Dec. 2, 2014 11:52 A.M. (Updated: Dec. 2, 2014 7:08 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Egyptian authorities closed the Rafah crossing with the Gaza Strip on Tuesday after it was open for two days to allow Palestinians stranded in Egypt to return home, a statement said.

The Palestinian department of borders and crossings said in a statement that 554 travelers were allowed to return to Gaza throughout the two days the crossing was open.

Rafah was only open for Palestinians entering Gaza via Egypt, and not vice versa.

Egypt also opened the crossing for two days last week, when some 500 stranded Palestinians were allowed to enter.

Before last Wednesday, the terminal had been closed for more than 30 consecutive days.

The crossing has only been open occasionally and for exceptions since the ouster of president Mohamed Morsi, but Egyptian authorities shut it definitively following a deadly attack on Egyptian policeman in the Sinai peninsula.

Palestinians who were in Egypt at the time were unable to return to Gaza, and some were stranded on the Egyptian side of the Rafah crossing for weeks.

Rafah is the principle connection between Palestinians in Gaza and the outside world, and its regular closure is part of the jointly-enforced Israeli-Egyptian blockade on the tiny territory.

The blockade has led to frequent humanitarian crises and armed conflicts with Israel, and is currently limiting the entry of construction material for the devastated Strip's post-war reconstruction, promised by the international community.
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