Archive for Sunday, August 31, 2008

Egypt opens Gaza Strip border

August 31, 2008


— Egypt opened its sealed border crossing with the Gaza Strip on Saturday, allowing hundreds of people to enter and leave the coastal territory in a goodwill gesture before the holy Muslim month of Ramadan begins, officials said.

Palestinians who live abroad or are seeking medical treatment and Egyptians stuck in Gaza because of the sealed border gathered at dawn in a nearby sporting center, where Hamas police shipped them to the Rafah crossing in buses.

On the Egyptian side of the border, hundreds of Palestinians massed to cross back into Gaza after being shut out for months.

"I am going back home," said Umm Usama, an Egyptian woman married to a Palestinian man, who came to Gaza to visit relatives. "Thank you, President Mubarak, for letting us return home before Ramadan," which begins early next week.

Rafah was sealed after the militant Muslim Hamas group seized power in Gaza in June 2007, confining

1.5 million Gaza residents to the tiny coastal territory. Egyptian officials have infrequently opened the crossing since, though in January, Hamas gunmen breached the border, allowing hundreds of thousands of Palestinians and Egyptians to cross back and forth before Egypt clamped it shut again.

Israel also has sealed its crossings with Gaza, only allowing in humanitarian aid and a trickle of commercial goods.


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