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Last Updated: Monday, 31 December 2007, 16:07 GMT
Protest by stranded Gaza pilgrims
Gaza pilgrims and Egyptian riot police
Egyptian riot police hold back Palestinians in el-Arish
More than 1,000 Palestinian pilgrims stranded in Egypt have held protests after they were blocked from travelling through a border crossing to Gaza.

The pilgrims broke windows and started fires to protest against the decision to move them to a temporary camp.

Israel has insisted that the pilgrims must return to the Gaza Strip through a crossing that it controls.

It says it wants to ensure that no weapons or money are being channelled to militant groups.

The pilgrims returning from the Hajj in Mecca include several prominent members of the Hamas movement, who fear they will be detained if they try to travel through an Israeli-controlled crossing.

Gaza, Egypt and Israel map

They want to go home through the Rafah border crossing point. But Egypt, following an Israeli request, is insisting they use the Israeli-controlled Aouja crossing.

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

Slogans

Egyptian authorities have moved more than 1,100 of the pilgrims to several temporary camps set up in and around the Mediterranean coastal city of el-Arish.

Reports say the pilgrims shouted slogans against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Hundreds of riot police surrounded the protesters, while the fires were put out.

A 67-year-old Palestinian woman collapsed and died during the protests, reports said.

After the unrest ended, some pilgrims continued their protest by refusing to accept meals provided by the Egyptian government.

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.



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