Egyptian authories signal wrath toward Palestinians over attack

Tuesday, January 6, 2004

CAIRO Egypt has sharply restricted the entry of Palestinians in wake of an attack on its foreign minister.

Arab diplomatic sources said Egypt has imposed restrictions at its crossing point in Rafah over the last week. The sources said the result has been the refusal to permit hundreds of Palestinians to enter Egypt from the Gaza Strip.

Egyptian authorities have sought to ban Islamists or those connected to Hamas and Islamic Jihad from entering Egypt, the sources said. They said one of the Palestinians refused entry was Nadia Al Asha, the wife of Hamas leader Mussa Abu Marzouk.

The measure was said to have reflected Egyptian anger over the Palestinian attack on Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Maher in late December. Maher was attacked by an Islamic group in the Al Aqsa mosque on Jerusalem's Temple Mount and required brief hospitalization, Middle East Newsline reported.

"The attack on Maher was regarded as a Palestinian attack on [Egyptian President Hosni] Mubarak himself," an Arab diplomat said. "We are talking about an organized attack that was not prevented by the Palestinian Authority."

The PA has formally apologized for the attack and PA Chairman Yasser Arafat sent a high-level delegation to Mubarak. But the Egyptian state-run media have been scathing in their condemnation of Arafat and called for long-term sanctions on his regime.

Publicly, Egypt has not acknowledged the new restrictions. Egyptian consul in Gaza, Mohammed Munir Abdul Aziz, said his government has not reduced the number of travelers who seek to enter the Sinai Peninsula. "Nothing has changed after the incident and Palestinian visitors continued to enter into the country as usual," Abdul Aziz, said.

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