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2,200 Palestinian Pilgrims Re-enter Gaza Via Hamas-Controlled Crossing


Egypt has allowed nearly 2,200 Palestinian pilgrims who had been stranded in the country after returning from the Hajj to re-enter the Gaza Strip through a Hamas-controlled crossing.

Egyptian authorities allowed the pilgrims to pass through the Rafah terminal on the Egypt-Gaza border Wednesday despite Israeli objections.

The move came after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo Wednesday. Egypt's official news agency, MENA quotes a spokesman for Mr. Abbas' Fatah party as saying the Palestinian leader urged Mr. Mubarak to ensure the pilgrims' swift return to Gaza.

Israel had wanted to screen the pilgrims at an Israeli-controlled crossing, Kerem Shalom to prevent them from smuggling money or weapons to Hamas militants. Hamas members among the pilgrims feared arrest.

Israeli officials rebuked Egypt for allowing the pilgrims to use the Rafah crossing. Gaza's Hamas rulers thanked Cairo and hailed the pilgrims' return as a victory.

Egypt's government had housed the Palestinian pilgrims in temporary camps since Saturday. Some pilgrims angry about their situation rioted on Monday.

Egypt closed its side of the Rafah border crossing to regular traffic in June, when Hamas's takeover of Gaza prompted international monitors to leave the terminal. Israel says Egypt cannot open the crossing without its consent.

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