Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Palestinian pilgrims return to Gaza

More than 2,000 pilgrims returning from Saudi Arabia begin pouring into Gaza Strip, after being stranded in Egypt for five days. Cairo initially refused to let pilgrims pass through Rafah crossing, and decision is likely to spark tensions with Israel

"......An Egyptian official said Wednesday that Israel had been "informed" of the Egyptian decision to let the pilgrims back.

But Israeli defense officials said Israel hadn't approved their return and that Egypt's decision to let them back into Gaza "contradicts understandings" between Israel and Egypt. Officials in the Israeli foreign ministry said they had not been informed about Egypt's decision.

Mushir al-Masri, a Hamas lawmaker who came to the crossing to greet the returning pilgrims, praised Egypt for its decision.

"This is a humanitarian case since the start. Egypt's position was laudable. We thank Egypt," al-Masri said.

The pilgrims' return seemed likely to inflame tensions between Israel and Egypt....."

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