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Last Updated: Sunday, 29 July 2007, 18:09 GMT 19:09 UK
Palestinians return to Gaza Strip
Palestinians, sitting in a bus, cross the Erez border checkpoint into Gaza
Thousands of Palestinians are stranded in Egypt
Dozens of Palestinians have returned to Gaza after being stranded for weeks in Egypt after the border was shut during Hamas's takeover of the territory.

Thousands of Palestinians are still stranded in Egypt, but Egypt and Israel have struck a deal to get people back.

The first convoy was escorted through Israel to the Israeli-controlled Erez crossing in the northern Gaza Strip.

More than 500 are expected to return on Monday. Israel approved the names of all those allowed to re-enter Gaza.

The Rafah border crossing, in the south of Gaza, is the only way in or out of the Palestinian territory that does not pass through Israel - although when it is open the Israeli authorities monitor traffic electronically.

Desperate conditions

Thousands of Palestinians are still in Egypt, having travelled there via the Rafah crossing to seek medical treatment or work.

Map of Gaza crossings
The BBC's Aleem Maqbool says many had only planned to be away from home for a matter of days but on 9 June the crossing was shut and there was no way back.

Many of the thousands of Gazans stranded in Egypt have no money to pay for food or lodging and are sleeping in mosques or camping in the open in the extreme heat.

Israel and Egypt agreed not to allow people back into Gaza directly, but via Israel - a means by which Israeli authorities could approve who or what was being let back in.

The deal has angered Hamas who want the Rafah crossing re-opened and no Israeli involvement, our correspondent reports.

But he says that seems unlikely in the short-term with security concerns about what resources Hamas could receive if that were to happen.




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