Flood of people head into Gaza from Egypt

Saturday, July 15, 2006

RAFAH, Gaza Strip -- Militants forced open a border gate between Egypt and Gaza on Friday, wounding an Egyptian officer and letting hundreds of Palestinians who had been trapped on the Egyptian side of the border to get into Gaza.

Armed militants stood by as people carrying suitcases crossed into Gaza. Some walked through on crutches while others walked or ran through the gate.

Egyptian police Capt. Mohammed Abdel Hadi said masked Palestinian militants firing guns broke into the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing, clearing the way for the trapped Gazans.

One Egyptian border policeman was wounded when the militants stormed the frontier, said Abdel Hadi, who heads police on the Egyptian side of Rafah.

The crossing, Gaza's main gateway to the outside world, has largely been closed since June 25, when Palestinian militants carried out a raid on a military outpost, killing two Israeli soldiers and capturing one.

Hundreds of people have been stranded on the Egyptian side, unable to get to their homes in Gaza.

Rafah's closure left hundreds of Palestinians who work and study in Egypt stranded, while preventing hundreds of others from leaving the coastal area to receive medical treatment abroad.

Last week, a 26-year-old Palestinian woman suffering from cancer died at the border while waiting to be allowed into Gaza.

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