CAIRO: Palestinians returning from the hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca) destroyed windows and set fire to mattresses in Al-Arish Monday to protest having to return to Gaza through Israeli-controlled checkpoints.A 67-year-old woman, Khadra Mahmoud Mohammed Massoud, died of a heart attack during the demonstration. Other elderly pilgrims were taken to Al-Arish hospital to be treated for asphyxiation from the smoke.Meanwhile, thousands of relatives and Hamas supporters from across the border in Gaza protested against the stranded pilgrims’ detention and demanded that they be allowed to return through a crossing not controlled by Israel.”There were massive protests today by hundreds of angry Palestinian pilgrims inside the shelter set up by Egyptian authorities, a security source told Reuters.The Egyptians wanted the pilgrims to return through Al-Oja crossing, which entails going through Israeli territory and the accompanying security checks.There are at least 10 prominent Hamas figures among the Palestinian contingent, according to press reports. Israel wants them to undergo security checks because they claim some may be carrying arms or money for Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since June.Some of the pilgrims had initially entered Egypt through a crossing not under Israeli jurisdiction and want to return the same way. Others have agreed to return through Al-Oja, which means entering Israeli territory to get to Gaza through the Erez crossing.Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum urged Egypt to open the Rafah crossing – which has been closed off since June – saying the situation “should be resolved immediately. “We reject any other crossings, Barhoum added.Egypt has temporarily placed more than 1,100 pilgrims in various camps in Al-Arish until a deal is negotiated to secure their return. However, many of the pilgrims refused to stay in the allocated centers, which included Al-Arish stadium, where much of the protesting later took place.The pilgrims had travelled up to Al-Arish from Nuweiba Sunday where they landed after completing the annual pilgrimage to Mecca.There are already 1,000 Palestinians who have been stranded in Al-Arish and Rafah since June when Hamas took over the Gaza strip after clashes with its rival Fatah. Israel has agreed to allow 100 of those to return through Al-Oja.The Rafah crossing is the only direct crossing between Gaza and Egypt and is not subject to Israeli control. It was operated under a US-brokered agreement between the Palestinians, Israelis, and Egyptians, which stipulated the presence of EU monitors at the crossing.When Gaza fell to Hamas in June, the monitors fled and the crossing has been closed since, causing around 4,000 Palestinians who fled the fighting to be stranded in Egypt for months.However, the crossing has been opened once since the closure to allow some 100 Hamas members to return to Gaza since they would have been arrested by Israeli security forces had they traveled through Al-Oja.