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Israel to Reopen Gaza-Egypt Border Crossing - 2004-08-06


Israel announced that it will reopen Friday the international Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt. The move will allow 1,500 Palestinians stranded for nearly three weeks to return to their homes in the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli Army confirmed that Israel will reopen the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the southern Gaza Strip on Friday, ending a 19 day closure. The public announcement came after Egyptian officials said earlier they had been informed by Israel of the decision.

Fifteen hundred Palestinians have gathered at the border since the start of the closure and another 2,000 are said to be waiting in hotels in Egypt's northern Sinai region.

Israel closed the border crossing on July 18, citing security concerns and warnings of a possible terror attack in the area.

Israel's decision to reopen the border followed statements from the U.S. administration earlier in the week that it was deeply concerned about the plight of the thousands of stranded Palestinians.

U.S. officials urged Egypt, Israel and the Palestinian Authority to reach an agreement to allow the Palestinians to return to Gaza.

On Wednesday, Israel's Ambassador to Egypt, Eli Sheked was summoned to the Egyptian Foreign Ministry to explain Israel's delays in re-opening the border.

Egypt had also urged the European Union to "prevent further humanitarian suffering by the Palestinians" and asked the United Nations to intervene.

The long closure had drawn anger from Palestinians and criticism from human rights groups, which said hygiene conditions were poor at the crowded crossing. One woman gave birth to a baby girl while waiting to return to Gaza.

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