Stranded Palestinians to return to Gaza -officials
RAMALLAH, West Bank, July 28 (Reuters) Thousands of Palestinians stranded in Egypt for weeks will be allowed back into the Hamas-held Gaza Strip next week under a deal between Israel and Egypt, Palestinian officials said today.
The Egyptian Red Crescent estimated that roughly 5,000 Palestinians have been stranded in dusty Egyptian towns in north Sinai since Hamas Islamists seized control of the Gaza Strip on June 14 and the main border crossings were closed.
Palestinian officials estimate the number of stranded Gazans at between 6,000 and 7,000.
Palestinian Minister of Prisoners Affairs Ashraf Ajrami said that Palestinians stuck on the Egyptian side of the border will be allowed to pass through Israel and back into Gaza as early as Tuesday.
''They will enter Gaza through border points along the Egyptian-Israeli border. The Palestinian Authority is responsible for putting them in buses and transporting them back into Gaza,'' Ajrami said.
Other Palestinian sources familiar with the deal said the Palestinians would cross the border in stages, rather than all at one time.
The Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt has been closed since Hamas's takeover. Hamas has rejected proposals to allow the stranded Gazans to return through other crossings controlled by Israel.
REUTERS PD RN1625