Posted by: Lister | January 25, 2008

Egyptian forces make a human chain

Trying to keep the Palestinians in Gaza. And so Hamas bulldozes new hole in Gaza-Egypt border:

Gunfire could be heard as thousands of Palestinian onlookers cheered on the militants as they rammed the chain-link and barbed-wire fence at the crossing near Rafah in southern Gaza.

Earlier, Egyptian border guards with riot shields formed human chains in an attempt to hinder the flow of Gazans into Egypt and gradually reseal the breached border, but thousands of Palestinians managed to sneak through other openings.

At one point, guards aimed a water cannon above the heads of people, not at them, to keep them back.

The Egyptian guards were posted along the main border breach, where a crowd quickly grew into the thousands, frustrated at no longer being let in. Some threw stones at the Egyptians, but quickly stopped after being booed.

[…] Yousef Mohammed, 17, from Gaza, said he had waited until Friday to make the trip because he was trying to get together enough money first to shop in Egypt. They don’t want us to go in, he said, pointing at the riot police.

Egyptian Amira Ali, 39, carrying her toddler son and holding a 6-year-old son by the hand, said she wants to visit her mother-in-law in Gaza. “Of course, I’m afraid [of being trapped in Gaza], but will try to go for a while so my mother-in-law can see the kids,” she said.

Travelers returning from Egypt said they heard loudspeaker announcements there that Gazans had to return home by 7 P.M. Friday.

[…] The opening of the border, even if temporary, provided a significant popularity boost to Gaza’s Hamas rulers, who can claim they successfully broke through the internationally supported Israeli closure that has deprived the coastal strip of normal trade and commerce for nearly two years.

Both Egypt and Israel restricted the movement of people and goods in and out of Gaza after Hamas won parliament elections in 2006, and further tightened the closure after Hamas seized control of the area by force last June.

[…] Hamas and other terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip have used the newly open border with Egypt to send numerous terrorists into the Sinai peninsula over the last two days, with the goal of then sending them from Sinai into Israel to commit attacks, defense officials said Thursday.

[…] Due to fear of a terrorist infiltration, the IDF on Thursday shut down Route 10, which runs along the Egyptian border. The army said it also briefed southern communities on the situation and asked the Education Ministry to ban school trips in certain parts of the Negev and Arava.

Hamas planned border wall blast for months. I don’t find that surprising. The blockade of Gaza has been going on, to various degrees, for a very long time.

Hamas operatives had been sawing away the foundations of the wall between Egyptian and Palestinian Rafah for a few months to make it easier to blow it up when the time came, a source close to the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) in Rafah told Haaretz Wednesday.

A central Hamas operative partially confirmed the report, although he told Haaretz it was PRC operatives who had prepared to breach the wall, while Hamas policemen did not interfere.

In any case, Hamas has for months been discussing the need to take the initiative in ending the siege of Gaza. Apparently, after four days of hermetic closure, following months of siege, the planners believed the political and social conditions were ripe to bring down the iron wall that Israel had put up.

Wednesday around 3 A.M., the people of Rafah were awakened by a series of blasts — between 15 and 20, people said. The hospital in Rafah was put on advance alert to prepare for those who might be injured by Egyptian bullets. People started heading toward the blast sites, but a source who knew about the plan ahead of time told Haaretz Hamas men prevented them from going over to the Egyptian side before sunrise. At 6 A.M., the first people started to cross over to Egypt, and their numbers steadily increased. The market on the Egyptian side of Rafah opened early in honor of the visitors.

[…] The lack of concrete has made it difficult to bury the dead; the lack of foam mattresses has meant weddings have been postponed.

Although the Egyptians raised the price of cigarettes in a few hours because of the demand, their price in the Gaza Strip plummeted, from as high as NIS 24 to NIS 10 a pack.

[…] Some stayed overnight in Egypt, although most went for a few hours. When they returned, Hamas police checked their belongings, especially people carrying large cartons, looking for drugs and weapons. Butheyneh, who did not buy anything, saw hashish in someone’s belongings. He was immediately arrested. Rumor had it that Fatah men had weapons, and they were immediately confiscated.

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Responses

  1. The Egyptian authorities are in a Catch 22 situation. If they leave the border open, they risk losing money and political support from the USA. If they close the border by force, then Mubarak is seen as supporting injustice against the Palestinians.

    Hence their message: “Dear Palestinian brothers, when you have finished buying your goods, please return to Gaza. The border is closing.”.

    And they’re testing out their options:

    Early Friday, scores of Egyptian police carrying riot shields took up positions along the border, blocking more Palestinians from entering Egypt. Armored vehicles and trucks carrying barbed wire and water cannons rolled to the border.

    Violence broke out in the late afternoon, when police were due to close the border. Palestinian witnesses said Egyptian security forces fired tear gas and unleashed attack dogs. Palestinians abruptly turned on the Egyptians, pummeling them.

    By dusk, crowds were flowing freely across the border again, and Egyptian security forces had retreated. The Egyptians stood with two dead police dogs at their feet. Witnesses said Hamas gunmen had shot them. Ambulances took away at least three wounded Egyptian officers.

    […] “To be honest, what the Israelis did with blocking the borders gave a boost to Hamas,” said Walid Awad, a spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, a leader of the rival Fatah party that governs the West Bank. “It was a strategic mistake.”

  2. What do you think of this samsonblinded.org/blog/israel-cannot-blockade-gaza.htm ? Shoher is arguably the most right Israeli today, but he argues Israel should talk to Hamas as Egypt will not maintain the blockade of Gaza.


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