( Reuters )- Palestinians streamed home across Gaza's breached border with Egypt on Sunday as Egyptian authorities choked off supplies to the area and vowed to restore control.
Egypt has struggled to re-seal the border and contain hundreds of thousands of needy Gazans who poured across since militants blasted breaches last Wednesday to evade an Israeli blockade on the Hamas Islamist-run territory.
A Reuters reporter on the Egyptian side of the border town of Rafah saw hundreds of Palestinians leaving Egypt and only a handful of people crossing in from the Gaza Strip on Sunday.
"We wanted to buy food. It was very difficult. We could not find anything," said 17-year-old Khalil Hamdan . "We won't come back because all the products are finished."
Hundreds of trucks were held up at a bridge that leads from mainland Egypt to the Sinai area and Gaza. Merchants in the border town of Rafah said they were struggling to get supplies of food and cigarettes. Fuel was also running short.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said his country would take steps to control the border with Gaza "as soon as possible" without giving details. Egyptian forces tried to seal the border last week but militants just bulldozed new openings.
Egypt, the first Arab country to make peace with Israel, does not want to be seen as aiding the Israeli blockade. However, it also fears the spread of Islamist influence and the effects of hosting so many Palestinians without identity papers.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's government said it had agreed with Cairo that it would run the crossing, excluding Hamas , which drove Abbas's forces out of the impoverished territory of 1.5 million last June.
But Hamas said it had assurances from Egypt that there had been no deal with Abbas . A Hamas spokesman said Egyptian officials wanted to work out a new border arrangement with both Hamas and Fatah's secular Fatah faction.
There was no sign of progress on the border agreement at a meeting between Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Jerusalem on Sunday, where the Palestinian leader's aides had said he would seek support for the idea.
An Israeli official said the Gaza crossing was not discussed at length, but Olmert told Abbas the Jewish state would keep letting humanitarian supplies into Gaza. Israel said the embargo was imposed to counter rocket fire out of the territory.
"They spoke about the need to prevent a humanitarian crisis in Gaza," Olmert spokesman David Baker said.
Israel has so far resisted Abbas's request to take control of Gaza crossings. Israeli officials said the request was under consideration but that they believed Abbas's security forces would not be capable of doing the job anytime soon.
The fall of the border at Rafah has weakened a U.S.-backed campaign to curb the clout of Hamas , which refuses to give up its fight against Israel, and strengthen Abbas by restarting peace talks with Israel.
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al- Malki said Egypt had agreed to restore a 2005 border agreement giving Abbas control and Hamas would have to accept it or "be held responsible for the protracted closure of the border crossings."
But Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri said "We have our own vision of how the crossing will be run and we will present our vision to our Egyptian brothers."
Israel, which occupied Gaza in 1967, pulled out in 2005 but still controls its other borders, airspace and coastal waters.
Abbas's authority is effectively restricted to the occupied West Bank since Hamas took control of Gaza. He rejects Hamas accusations that he supports the closures on Gaza as a way to weaken the Islamists.
After the Abbas-Olmert meeting, the chief negotiators from both sides held a second round of final-status talks, Israeli officials said. Hamas said the results of the Abbas-Olmert meeting "proved the pointlessness of these negotiations."