Scores of Palestinians rush to Egypt despite ban

Scores of Palestinians crossed from the Gaza Strip into Egypt on Wednesday despite the passing of a Palestinian-set deadline aimed at closing the border to prevent further entries.

Groups of people continued scaling a high wall separating Egypt from Gaza and taxi-loads of Palestinians headed toward the Egyptian coastal town of el-Arish, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) to the west, despite the passing of a 6 p.m. deadline to shut down the crossing.

Several thousand Palestinians, who had crossed earlier Wednesday from the Gaza side of the border town of Rafah into the Egyptian side, queued at a crossing point to return home, many carrying bags packed with food and other products, according to the AP.

Few Egyptian security forces were seen around the Saladin crossing point and Palestinians seemed unfazed about returning quickly to Gaza, which was handed over to Palestinian control on Monday following the final withdrawal of Israeli forces from the territory after a 38-year occupation.

Palestinian authorities set Wednesday's deadline on Tuesday amid Israeli concerns over the crossing of thousands of Gazans into Egypt since the Israeli withdrawal and the apparent increase in weapons smuggling in the area.

A key condition of Israel's pullout from Gaza was for Egyptian and Palestinian security forces to lock down their border to prevent militant infiltration and arms smuggling. Israel has expressed concern over Egypt's apparent failure to stop large numbers of Palestinians, including members of the militant Hamas group, entering into Rafah.

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