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Authorities plan to open the Rafah border crossing in both directions Tuesday after a nine-day closure that followed a deadly attack on a military checkpoint that left 16 security officers dead, an official at the crossing told state news agency MENA.
Maher Abu Sabha, head of the Gaza Strip border crossings, had previously said the border would open in both directions before Eid al-Fitr.
Egyptian authorities decided to re-open the Rafah crossing Friday in one direction, from Egypt to Gaza, after completely closing it last week in the aftermath of an attack on a military checkpoint in Rafah that killed 16 Egyptian security officers.
Cairo International Airport authorities on Sunday allowed 79 Palestinian pilgrims to enter the country from Saudi Arabia after they performed the Umra pilgrimage.
The airport Passports Department director contacted the Rafah border crossing authorities to ask them to wait for the Palestinian pilgrims’ arrival so the border would not close before they got to the Gaza Strip.
Reuters meanwhile reported that Hamas, stunned by Egypt’s closure of the border, said Monday the new Islamist leadership in Cairo was imposing the same pain on the Palestinian enclave as ousted former President Hosni Mubarak.
Hamas denied speculation that some of the assailants had crossed from Gaza and has accused Egypt of imposing collective punishment on the impoverished Palestinians.
“We suffered from the unjust regime of Mubarak that participated in the [Israeli] blockade of Gaza. Why should we suffer now in the era of Egypt’s revolution and democracy?” said Hamas Interior Minister Fathy Hammad.
Israel has for years refused exit visas for all but a tiny minority in Gaza, making Rafah the sole window on the world for almost all of the enclave’s 1.7 million Palestinians, with some 800 people a day using the terminal to reach Egypt.
Since the closure, thousands have been stranded, although Cairo did order a brief opening on Friday to allow Palestinians trapped in Egypt to return home.
“If Palestine was not a top priority for you, you should change direction,” Hammad said in an unusually sharp rebuke.
Hamas believed Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy would usher in a new period of harmony between Gaza and Cairo, but that has yet to materialize because of strategic considerations involving Egypt’s 1979 peace treaty with Israel and related military aid from the US.