Palestinians not allowed to return to Gaza from Egypt

Egyptian police stopped Palestinians from returning to Gaza on Tuesday, causing a crowd of more than 1,000 people to gather near the crossing here, as officials from the two sides met to discuss the border situation.

"Since Monday evening, they have been preventing us from going back," said Akram al-Masry, a Palestinian from Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip.

In the past few days, border officials have been allowing Palestinians and Egyptians to return to their territories, but not to visit each other's land. Thousands of Palestinians and Egyptians surged across the border illegally last week in the relaxed conditions that followed Israel's withdrawal from the Strip on Sept. 12, the AP reminds.

However, Palestinians said the border officials sealed the Rafah crossing late Monday, leaving many Palestinians stranded on the Egyptian side.

"We were forced to spend the night on the streets," complained Osama Abu Hamed, a Palestinian who wanted to return to Gaza on Monday evening.

A Palestinian liaison official in this Egyptian town, Hani Jubor, said security officials from the two sides were meeting at Rafah crossing Tuesday afternoon to determine the fate of Egyptians and Palestinians stuck on opposite sides of the border.

As the crowd waiting to cross grew bigger Tuesday, Egyptian police officers linked arms and formed a human chain to stop about 1,000 Palestinians getting to the crossing's gate. Other security forces were deployed in the town, closing off some roads.

In Gaza on Tuesday, Palestinian National Security Adviser Jibril Rajoub said the Rafah crossing would be opened Friday and Saturday to allow Palestinian students, medical patients and others with special needs to cross.

Since Sunday, when Egypt finished its deployment of 750 border guards and reimposed control on the frontier, Egyptian police have been rounding up Gazans in Rafah and the nearby town of el-Arish and taking them to the border.

The Palestinians have been pushing for an agreement with Israel and Egypt to re-open Rafah, which Israel closed days before its withdrawal.

Israel has said Rafah should remain closed for at least six months. It apparently wants to see whether the Palestinian Authority can maintain order in the Strip.

Israel said earlier this month it would open an alternative crossing for people at Kerem Shalom, at the confluence of the borders of Gaza, Israel and Egypt, but this has not happened.

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