Gaza Residents ‘Stranded Abroad’ as Egypt Denies Visas

A number of Palestinians say they are stranded abroad because Egypt has denied them transit visas to return to Gaza.

Palestinians in Lebanon, Turkey, Libya and Kenya have contacted Ma’an, saying they were refused Egyptian visas.

Gaza residents can only enter or leave the enclave via the Rafah crossing on Egypt’s border due to Israel’s blockade of Gaza’s other borders and sea port.

Salim, who is in Istanbul, told Ma’an the Egyptian consulate said it had been instructed by the Egyptian government to stop issuing visas to Palestinians.

Another Palestinian, who asked not to be identified but is also in Istanbul, said an employee of the Egyptian consulate told him he would not be given a visa "because the Palestinians killed Egyptian soldiers in Sinai."

A Palestinian in Algeria told Ma’an he had booked a flight to Cairo but was told he could not board the flight. The airline also refused to postpone his ticket, he added.

Palestinians have reported problems returning to Gaza via Egypt since gunmen killed 16 Egyptian officers near the Gaza border on Aug. 5. Hamas has denied speculation that militants from Gaza were involved in the attack.

Egypt swiftly closed the Rafah crossing, briefly reopening it in one direction on Friday.

The Palestinian director of the border crossing told Ma’an on Friday that the terminal would reopen in both directions Tuesday for three days, mainly to permit travel for humanitarian cases such as Palestinians seeking medical care abroad, and students.

Hamas believed Muslim Brotherhood President Muhammad Mursi would usher in a new period of harmony between Gaza and Cairo, but that has yet to materialize because of strategic considerations involving Egypt’s 1979 peace treaty with Israel and related military aid from the United States.

"We suffered from the unjust regime of Mubarak that participated in the (Israeli) blockade of Gaza. Why should we suffer now in the era of Egypt’s revolution and democracy?" said Hamas Interior Minister Fathi Hammad.

"The Egyptian leadership is requested to order the reopening of the Rafah crossing to alleviate the suffering of Palestinians wanting to travel, students, patients, residents in third countries and pilgrims," he said in a statement.

"If Palestine was not a top priority for you, you should change direction," Hammad added in an unusually sharp rebuke.

(Ma’an)

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