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Palestinian Pilgrims Protest Egypt's Refusal to Let Them Cross Into Gaza


Hundreds of Palestinian pilgrims stranded in Egypt have protested Cairo's refusal to let them return to the Gaza Strip through a Hamas-controlled crossing.

Several thousand Gaza residents arrived in Egypt's Sinai peninsula Saturday after completing the hajj in Mecca. The pilgrims demanded to be allowed to cross directly into Gaza without going through Israel, but Egypt refused and ordered them to remain in temporary shelters.

Around 1,000 Palestinian pilgrims were transported to camps in the Sinai town of El-Arish, were many of them vented their anger Monday against the Egyptian government.

Officials say protesters set fire to furniture and smashed windows in the camps before police moved in to restore order. A 67-year old Palestinian woman collapsed during the riot and later died.

Many of the pilgrims had left Gaza through the Hamas-controlled Rafah crossing as part of a deal betwen Egypt and the militant group. Cairo has otherwise kept the crossing closed since Hamas took control of Gaza in June.

Israel wants the pilgrims to pass through an Israeli-controlled crossing on their way to Gaza so that it can stop suspected militants and their sympathizers from getting through. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak says his government is trying to resolve the dispute.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.

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