Al Jazeera’s Amr El-Kahky, reporting from the Egyptian side of the Rafah crossing, said that the area was very crowded. He said: “Security forces are now blocking exits past the city of Arish, which is 50km from Rafah. They will not allow the Palestinians past the town, and are forcing them to go back to Rafah.”
Palestinian fighters set off at least 15 explosions at the wall running through Rafah separating the two territories before dawn on Wednesday, Hamas security forces said. The Egyptian security forces later closed most holes, but left two open to allow the flow of human traffic. Meanwhile, Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, later said he had ordered his troops to allow Palestinians to cross into Egypt because they were starving. “I told them to let them come in and eat and buy food and then return them later as long as they were not carrying weapons,” he said.
The move came after Egyptian troops had fired in the air and used batons and water canons to beat back Gazans trying to push through the previous day. The response drew drawn angry protests and complaints that Gaza was under siege not just from Israel but also by neighbouring Arab countries.
Palestinians were also told by the Hamas leadership in Gaza that they should respect Egyptian security forces, get what they need, and return to Gaza, El-Kahky said. Al Jazeera’s Samir Omar said all shops in Rafah were open to enable Palestinians to buy food and medicines. Witnesses said some Palestinians were only seeking to stock up on necessities, but others might stay longer in Rafah to meet relatives stranded in Arish.
Really Mubarak is just assenting to a reality and realising he probably could not order a lockdown with Egyptian popular support for the Palestinians so pervasive and a resurgent left (ht2 Dave), although arrests of Muslim Brotherhood members and others were his answer to demonstrations called by the Socialist Alliance. Although the US continues to back the siege and collective punishment of the Gazans, a war crime.
All of the members of the UN Security Council, except the US, have agreed on a draft statement condemning the Israeli clampdown on fuel and aid shipments into Gaza, as well as the decision to seal border crossings into the Palestinian enclave.
The US insists that the Israeli blockade of Gaza is a form of self-defence in the face of rockets fired from the Palestinian territory.
(ht2 The Heathlander)