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Last Updated: Sunday, 30 December 2007, 21:37 GMT
Gaza pilgrims stay on their buses
Gaza map, showing Nuweiba, Rafah and Aouja
The pilgrims docked at Nuweiba in the Red Sea but are still not home
More than 1,000 Palestinian pilgrims are refusing to leave the buses on which the Egyptian authorities want to return them to their homes in Gaza.

The pilgrims want to go home through the Rafah border crossing point. But Egypt is insisting they use Aouja, which is controlled by Israel.

Egypt wants them to wait in a camp until the matter is resolved.

The Palestinian Authority, Israel and Egypt have been trying to isolate Gaza since Hamas seized control in June.

The latest dispute blew up when some 2,000 Palestinian pilgrims from Gaza arrived in the Red Sea port of Nuweiba, after completing the annual Muslim Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia.

Egypt decided to move them to temporary camps outside the Mediterranean city of el-Arish.

Those Palestinians are our brothers. We'll find them a solution
Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak
When a first group of about half of them arrived they refused to leave the buses and demanded to be allowed to go back to Gaza at once.

"Curses on Egypt, Israel and the Palestinian authority," some of them shouted.

The group is thought to include senior Hamas members, and Israel believes some of them may attempt to smuggle funds into Gaza.

Hamas believes that if the pilgrims travel through Aouja, Israel will arrest the Hamas members.

Senior Hamas officials have accused Egypt of bowing to Israeli pressure by refusing to let the pilgrims cross into Gaza through the Rafah border crossing.

Israel has protested to Egypt over the opening of a border crossing to allow Muslim pilgrims from Gaza to make their way through Egypt to Saudi Arabia.
In December, Israel allowed pilgrims to exit Gaza through Rafah

In early December, Israel allowed some 2,200 Palestinian pilgrims to leave Gaza through the Rafah border-post.

Analysts say the dispute is embarrassing for Egypt, which does not want to be seen increasing the misery of Gaza residents.

In Cairo, President Mubarak said he wanted a quiet negotiated solution.

"Those Palestinians are our brothers. We'll find them a solution. But let's do it without loudmouthing," he said.

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