Egypt lets Muslim Brotherhood MPs into Gaza

RAFAH, Egypt Tue Jun 8, 2010 11:31am EDT

Hazem Farouq (C), a Muslim Brotherhood parliamentarian who boarded the aid flotilla attacked by Israel, other Egyptian MPs from the brotherhood and members of opposition parties walk near the Rafah border between Egypt and Gaza, June 7, 2010. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El-Ghany

Hazem Farouq (C), a Muslim Brotherhood parliamentarian who boarded the aid flotilla attacked by Israel, other Egyptian MPs from the brotherhood and members of opposition parties walk near the Rafah border between Egypt and Gaza, June 7, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Mohamed Abd El-Ghany

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RAFAH, Egypt (Reuters) - Egypt allowed lawmakers from the Muslim Brotherhood and other opposition groups to enter the blockaded Gaza Strip on Tuesday, but barred construction material contained in an accompanying aid convoy.

Security sources said this week Egypt would keep its Rafah border open indefinitely, barring security threats, a move seen as an attempt to deflect criticism of its role in the blockade imposed by Israel in 2007.

However, Cairo still limits the items that can cross into Gaza, mostly to medicine and food, and only permits people seeking study or medical treatment to enter Egypt.

A global outcry erupted over Israel's bloody raid of an aid ship bound for the coastal enclave last week, renewing international calls to lift the blockade that has eroded living conditions for Gaza's 1.5 million residents.

"Egyptian authorities allowed us to cross into Gaza in solidarity with Palestinians there, but they held back the aid intended to break the blockade and help rebuild the Strip," Brotherhood parliamentarian Mohamed Beltagy said.

The lawmakers, two of whom belonged to Egypt's opposition Karama Party, were granted a 24-hour stay in Gaza.

Cairo has opened its border with Gaza only sparingly since the Islamist group Hamas, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, seized the territory in 2007.

Opposition groups have accused Egyptian authorities of complicity in the Israeli blockade and have demanded a full, unrestricted opening of the border, which Cairo fears would allow Israel to wash its hands of responsibility for Gaza.

(Reporting by Mohamed Yusri in Rafah; writing by Marwa Awad)

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