Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Gaza-Egypt border crossing reopens


GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories — Palestinians waited on Tuesday to cross into Egypt as the Rafah border crossing reopened for travellers leaving the Gaza Strip for the first time in nearly a month.

The terminal was closed to all traffic after anti-regime protests in Egypt, but reopened to travellers going from Egypt into Gaza on Friday, allowing many stranded Palestinians to return.

On Sunday, officials from the ruling Hamas government said the terminal would open Tuesday for Palestinians entering Egypt, including medical patients and students.

"The terminal is now open to Palestinians who want to leave, at a rate of 300 a day," said Ayoub Abu Shaar, a terminal official said on Tuesday.

"More than 3,000 people have registered with us to travel," added Abu Shaar, who expressed hope that the terminal would stay open 24 hours a day, though it is currently operating only between 11:00 am (0900 GMT) and 4:00 pm (1400 GMT).

The crossing, which is the only access point to the outside world for Gazan Palestinians, closed on January 30, as Egyptian anti-regime protests gained speed.

Mohammed Al Awda was planning to enter Egypt with his 10-year-old daughter, who has kidney problems.

"I'm very happy that I might be able to go to Egypt for treatment for my daughter, we have a medical certificate from the Palestinian Authority and we have all the documents," he said.

"We have been registered to cross for days and we received the authorisation yesterday."
Rami Abu Hassira, a 25-year-old student at Jordan University, found himself trapped in Gaza after entering through Rafah on January 27 for a family visit.

"I was planning to stay a few days before going back to Jordan to continue my studies, but we found ourselves stuck here because the crossing closed," he told AFP.

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