Egypt reopens Rafah crossing after Palestinian breach

After bus loads of passengers left waiting at the shut Rafah border, angry Palestinians force gate open; tensions grow between Hamas and Egypt.

Palestinian rally at Rafah crossing 521 (photo credit: 	 REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa)
Palestinian rally at Rafah crossing 521
(photo credit: REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa)
Egyptian authorities reopened the Rafah border between Egypt and Gaza Saturday afternoon, after dozens of Palestinian protesters in Gaza stormed the crossing’s iron gate.
According to sources quoted by Israel Radio, Egypt delayed the border’s opening Saturday morning by nearly three hours.
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Palestinian-border officials said three buses filled with 180 passengers had waited several hours to cross the border at Rafah, the Hamas-ruled gateway to Egypt, and some of those waiting responded by forcing the gate open.
“We have not been notified of any reason for the closure – passengers are angry,” one of the officials told Reuters.
Palestinian news channel Ma’an reported that Egyptian authorities said the border was closed due to “works in progress.”
The unexpected closure comes only days after Egypt announced that the number of travelers allowed to cross in Rafah would be limited to between 350 and 400 people a day. The new restrictions strained relations between Hamas and Egypt, less than a week after the border crossing was reopened.
Salameh Baraka, director of Hamas’s border-crossing police in the Gaza Strip, denounced the restrictions as unreasonable, said they were a setback and called on Cairo to reconsider its move.
He added that the Egyptians justified the restrictions by arguing that they were unable to accommodate more than 400 people per day.
The Egyptian envoy to the Palestinian Authority, Yasser Othman, denied that the restrictions were the result of external pressure on the Egyptian authorities.
He said there was no change in Egypt’s decision to reopen the border crossing, and blamed technicalities and logistics for the delays and limits.
Khaled Abu Toameh contributed to this report.