Friday, February 18, 2011

Egypt opens Gaza border crossing -- one way


RAFAH, Palestinian Territories — Egypt on Friday reopened its Rafah border crossing to Gaza, shut since anti-regime protests erupted on January 25, but only to allow Palestinians to enter the enclave.
One of the first to cross was Ramdan Abu Ghazal, 42, who had been visiting relatives in the Sinai town of El-Arish and became stranded by the closure.

"We were scared during the unrest in Egypt," Ghazal told AFP. "I ran to the border as soon as I heard it would be open again."

An Egyptian security official said the crossing would be open only until 9:00 pm (1900 GMT) on Friday and again on Saturday from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm.

"Palestinians who have been stranded in Egypt will be able to return to Gaza, but those in Gaza will not be allowed to enter Egypt," the official said.
"It will start to open up gradually," he added.

Gaza's Hamas rulers urged the Egyptians to allow traffic in both directions.

"We appeal to the Egyptian authorities to open the Rafah crossing in both directions to allow patients to travel for treatment abroad," the Hamas health ministry said.

Ahmed el-Borshe, 28, said he had been in Cairo to get medical care for his two-year-old daughter.
"I came to El-Arish two days ago to wait for the border to open," he said. "It was dangerous in Cairo; I was afraid for my daughter. I'm so happy to get back."

The Rafah crossing, the only entrance into the Gaza Strip that bypasses Israel, has been closed since anti-government protests erupted in Egypt and led to the overthrow of president Hosni Mubarak.
Ghazi Hamad, a Hamas official dealing with border crossings said negotiations were in progress to keep Rafah open.

"Consultations with the Egyptian authorities are underway to open the crossing permanently," he told AFP.

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