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Hamas Leader Calls on Egypt to Open South Gaza Border for Trade

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh called on Egypt to open its border with the Gaza Strip for commercial trade, providing a conduit for imports and exports outside the hundreds of smuggling tunnels dug under the frontier.

Haniyeh’s appeal, outlined to reporters today in Gaza City, follows a doubling in permits for Palestinians to cross into Egypt at the southern Rafah border station to about 1,500 a day since the election of Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi.

Rafah is Gaza’s only official border crossing to Egypt that bypasses Israel. Haniyeh said the station should be open 24 hours a day with free movement of commercial goods to help revive the struggling Palestinian economy.

Israel and Egypt sealed Gaza’s borders in June 2007 after Hamas broke off its power-sharing arrangement with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Hamas is an offshoot of Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood organization. The group is considered a terrorist organization by Israel, the U.S. and European Union.

Egyptian presidential spokesman Yasser Ali’s mobile phone was switched off when contacted by Bloomberg for comment.

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