Rafah crossing shut in protest

Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, closes the border, accusing Egypt of putting restrictions.

    Hamas has closed the Gaza Strip's Rafah border crossing with Egypt and accused Egyptian authorities of failing to live up to its promises.

    The Palestinian group, which governs Gaza Strip, stopped travellers from crossing into Egypt on Sunday in protest after Egyptian authorities reportedly put some restrictions on the movement of people.

    "We have had contact with the Egyptian leadership. We want to hear from them whether the declared easing of travel restrictions are still in place," Hatem Oweida, the Hamas head of crossings authority, said.

    "We need to know how many passengers can cross [each day] and we need our Egyptian brothers to speed up the processing of passengers through their side."

    Hamas officials say that Egypt appears to have had second thoughts and has since tried to slow the flow of Palestinians looking to leave the tiny coastal enclave.

    However, Egyptian officials have denied any change to their policy and said the border was open again on Sunday.

    Passengers returning from Egypt were allowed to cross on Sunday, officials said, but Hamas has not allowed Gaza residents to cross into Egypt.

    On Saturday, the Egyptians unexpectedly shut the crossing altogether for previously unannounced maintenance work, sparking a small riot at the border.

    Egypt eased border access last weekend to much fanfare, extending opening hours at the frontier and scrapping visa requirements for many Palestinians.

    Egypt's decision to permanently reopen Rafah came more than three months after Hosni Mubarak resigned as president following 18 days of massive street protests against his rule.

    The crossing's reopening officially ended Egypt's co-operation with a blockade Israel imposed on Gaza in 2006.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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