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Egypt kept the gates of Rafah crossing point closed Saturday, blocking travel by Palestinians from the Gaza Strip, Hamas officials said.

The move came one week after Egypt decided to open its border with the Strip permanently and put an end to four years of blockade.

Hamas authorities expressed their ‘surprise’ that the crossing did not open on Saturday, the first day in the Arab week, officials said speaking on condition of anonymity.

Egyptian officials on the other side of the crossing refuse to respond to calls from Hamas officers on the Palestinian side, the Hamas officials said.

Dozens of travelers gathered on the departure hall at the Palestinian side and embarked on the buses, but the Egyptian gate remained closed.

The travelers, stuck between the Palestinian and Egyptian gates, left the buses and organized a sit-in protest, witnesses said. Later, they made their way to the Egyptian gate and forcibly entered the Egyptian hall.

The crossing is the only gate for Gazans to the world bypassing Israel and Egypt opened permanently and regularly one week ago.

When Hamas took over Gaza by force after bloody fighting with the mainstream Fatah in 2007, all Israeli crossings were closed and Rafah remained closed most of the time.

In June 2010, former Egyptian President Hosny Mubarak ordered the crossing to reopen on regular basis, but conditions for travel were still difficult.

After opening last week work went fine the first four days but then Hamas said that the movement of travelers was ‘almost paralyzed,’ blaming Egypt for the slow work.

Egypt said there were technical problems that delayed the work and that these troubles can be resolved through coordination. m&c

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