Thousands stranded as Rafah closed for 5th day 22May13 May 22, 2013

Ma’an News Agency    -   21 May 2013

131743_345x230GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — Egyptian authorities kept the Rafah crossing with Gaza closed for a fifth consecutive day on Tuesday, despite efforts by Palestinian officials to reopen the terminal.

Egyptian police closed the Rafah crossing on Friday after gunmen ambushed two minibuses in Sinai’s Wadi al-Akhdar and detained seven Egyptian servicemen.

The police said they would not reopen Rafah crossing until their colleagues were released.

A Gaza based center for human rights said that over 2,400 Palestinians are stranded at both sides of the crossing. The group urged Egyptian authorities to open the crossing and “exclude it from the internal affairs of both sides.”

Passengers told Ma’an on Monday that they were making do with cardboard and newspapers to sleep at night, and to avoid the heat of the sun during the day. Some sleep in mosques, and very few can afford to hire a hotel room in el-Arish.

Some passengers have even managed to cross into Gaza through smuggling tunnels.

Attacks on police and soldiers in the sparsely populated Sinai peninsula have surged since an uprising that overthrew president Hosni Mubarak in 2011, as have cross-border attacks on Israel.

The north of the peninsula is underdeveloped and has become a haven for Islamist militants, unlike the south which is dotted with beach resorts.

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