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Hamas urges Egypt to loosen Gaza blockade after 'worst year'

Rafah crossing was open for just 21 days in 2015, officials say, amid strained relations between Cairo and Gaza's de facto rulers
Palestinians wait at the Rafah border crossing to enter Egypt on 14 February 2016 (AFP)

Hamas called for Egypt to loosen restrictions on the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, a delegate said, after officials from the group travelled to Cairo seeking to mend strained relations.

Senior official Khalil al-Haya said Hamas had begged Egypt to allow more traffic through the Rafa border crossing with the Gaza Strip, the enclave's only transit point not controlled by Israel.

Egypt has largely kept its border with Gaza closed since 2013 and has destroyed hundreds of Palestinian tunnels used to smuggle commercial goods, cash, people and, allegedly, weapons.

The Hamas interior ministry said 2015 was "the worst year for Rafah in recent years," when the border crossing was open for just 21 days in total.

Relations have soured between Hamas and Cairo since the 2013 overthrow of Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi, a member of the now-blacklisted and Hamas-allied Muslim Brotherhood movement.

Former army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who deposed Morsi, has since launched a blistering crackdown on Islamist groups that has left hundreds of people dead and thousands jailed.

Tensions piqued this month when Egypt accused Hamas of being involved in the killing of the country's top prosecutor, who was killed by a car bomb last year.

Cairo regularly accuses Hamas of supporting attacks in Egypt.

Hamas has denied the claim, and Haya said his movement "condemned political killings and condemned the assassination of Attorney General Hisham Barakat".

He insisted that Hamas refused "to interfere in Egyptian affairs".

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