Egypt prevents Gaza pilgrims from crossing Rafah
Published Tuesday 25/03/2014 (updated) 26/03/2014 16:12
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Egyptian authorities prevented hundreds of pilgrims from returning home to Gaza on Monday after closing the Rafah crossing, witnesses said.
The passengers, who were returning from the Umrah pilgrimage to Mecca, arrived at Rafah on Monday afternoon but were forced to go back to the city of el-Arish by Egypt's army.
The pilgrims spent the night at the bus station in the city before trying to cross on Tuesday.
Many Palestinian pilgrims say Egyptian security procedures slow down their return to the Gaza Strip.
Egypt is expected to open the crossing on Tuesday to allow the stranded pilgrims to return to Gaza, Maher Abu Sabha, the manager of Gaza border crossings, told Ma'an.
The crossing is the principal connection between Gaza's 1.7 million residents and the outside world since the imposition of an economic blockade in 2007.
There have been frequent closures of the Rafah terminal in recent months due to political unrest in Egypt and violence in the Sinai peninsula, placing an added burden on Gaza Strip residents.
After the July coup that deposed president Mohamed Morsi, Egypt's army has repeatedly closed the Rafah border crossing and destroyed hundreds of tunnels that Gazans used for years to import fuel, building materials and other goods.