CAIRO: Almost all of the Palestinians who were stranded in Egypt over the past two months back home in Gaza, but the numbers of those who have remained out of fear of arrest is in dispute.
The Egyptian news agency Mena reported that only 30 Palestinians remain, afraid of being arrested once they cross Al-Oja crossing into Israeli territory because of their affiliation to Hamas.
However the local coordinator for Palestinian Affairs Abdel Sattar El-Ghalban disputed this number when contacted by Daily News Egypt, placing the figure at closer to between 500 and 700.
Additionally, El-Ghalban said that the ones refusing to return were not only those with ties to Hamas, but also people affiliated to other Palestinian factions like Fatah and Islamic Jihad.
“Those remaining are wanted by Israel so they cannot return through Al-Oja, what will their fate be? El-Ghalban told Daily News Egypt.
Over 5,700 Palestinians stranded in Egypt since June have made the trek back to Gaza by entering Israeli territory from Egypt through Al-Oja crossing, and then into the Gaza strip through the Erez crossing, according to El-Ghalban.
The Rafah crossing – the only direct link between Gaza and Egypt – has remained closed since Hamas defeated Fatah troops two months ago and seized control of the Strip.
Fatah leader and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was in Alexandria Wednesday holding talks with President Hosni Mubarak over the current situation in the divided territories.
Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper reported Thursday that amongst the topics discussed between the two leaders was the possibility of the Egyptian military temporarily taking control of Palestinian Authority security posts in Gaza, while Fatah and Hamas tried to broker a new deal.
Abbas reportedly told Mubarak that direct negotiations with Hamas was necessary to retain the Gaza Strip, a viewpoint he did not seem to reiterate when talking to the press later.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Abbas was scathing of Hamas and their actions labeling them as “destructive and a gift to the enemies of Palestine. He also stipulated that no talks will be held with Hamas until they rescind control of Gaza.