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    Palestinians return to Gaza Strip

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    Thousands of Palestinians who flooded into Egypt last week are returning to Gaza after Egyptian authorities closed markets, petrol stations and imposed accommodation bans, local media said Tuesday.

    CAIRO, January 29 (RIA Novosti) - Thousands of Palestinians who flooded into Egypt last week are returning to Gaza after Egyptian authorities closed markets, petrol stations and imposed accommodation bans, local media said Tuesday.

    Palestinian and Egyptian border guards have tried to restrict the streams of Palestinians that have been crossing back and forth through holes in a wall, which divides Egypt and the Gaza town of Rafah, blown up by militants on January 23.

    Most of the holes are reported to have been sealed and fewer people are said to be heading to Egypt to buy supplies.

    Arab media reported Tuesday that around 700,000 Palestinians, who visited Egypt within the last week, have spent over $220 million on food, clothes, fuel and medicine, an average of $320 per person.

    However, tens of thousands of Gaza residents are said to still be in Egypt and their return could take several days. Loudspeaker announcements have been urging Palestinians to go home, warning them that the border will soon close. Palestinians have mainly flocked to Rafah and the coastal town of al-Arish.

    Initially Egyptian authorities allowed Palestinians free access to the Sinai Peninsula to buy food, fuel and other essential items. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak gave his personal permission for Palestinians to enter the country to prevent Gaza residents starving as a result of Israel's blockade, imposed after rocket attacks on Israeli towns by militants from Gaza.

    Palestinians were restricted from traveling to Cairo and other major cities with the area being cordoned off and additional security patrols introduced. About 3,000 Palestinians, who managed to breach cordons, are reported to have been detained along with several hundred people of Palestinian origin in possession of firearms or explosives.

    On January 25, Arab media reported that Egyptian riot police used water cannons after Palestinian demonstrators threw bricks at them.

    Israel and Egypt restricted movement of people and goods in and out of Gaza after Hamas won the 2006 Palestinian general elections, further tightening the blockade after the radical Islamic group seized Gaza from the Fatah group in June, leaving the more moderate President Mahmoud Abbas in control of the West Bank.

    Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas movement leader Khaled Mashaal are expected in Cairo on Wednesday to try and resolve the issue of bringing the border check point at Rafah back to a working regime.

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