Hamas: Egypt Limiting Border Passage

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JERUSALEM, Israel - Hamas officials expressed disappointment over the number of people permitted to enter Egypt through the Rafah border crossing with the Gaza Strip.

On Saturday, the Egyptian government announced the permanent reopening of the crossing, which had been mostly closed since the June 2007 military coup that left Hamas in control of Gaza.

"Following the joy that has swept most of our people, movement at the crossing yesterday and today was disappointing," one Hamas official said, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported.

According to the report, Egyptian officials will allow a maximum of 400 travelers a day instead of the unlimited number Hamas was counting on. Hamas claims the numbers fell dramatically in the past two days, with less than 100 using the crossing by late Wednesday afternoon.

Hamas officials also complained about Egypt's request for advanced notice of the names of travelers between the ages of 18 and 40 seeking to enter the country through the Rafah crossing.

"We have told them we cannot accept the reinstatement of restrictions," one Hamas member told Reuters following a Tuesday night meeting of security officials to iron out some of the problems.

The Palestinian Ma'an news agency cited an unnamed Egyptian source who said about 5,000 people have been barred from entering Egypt because of "security concerns." 

Gaza-based Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh warned people "not to do anything that could compromise the reopening of the terminal."

"We assure our Egyptian brothers, 'your security is ours and your stability is ours," AFP quoted Haniyeh as having said.

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