Egyptian authorities on Wednesday blocked an opposition convoy headed for the Rafah border crossing with the Gaza Strip to protest its continued closure and protest Israel’s punishing blockade, a security official said.
Another security official said police had stopped an initial part of the convoy, made of about 50 judges, independent MPs, members of the main opposition Muslim Brotherhood and activists from other parties, in Ismailiya, on the Suez Canal, with a second part of the convoy set to leave Cairo in the afternoon.
Police have set up further checkpoints on the road between Ismailiya and the town of al-Arish in northern Sinai, about 30 miles (45 kilometers) from Rafah, the security official said, asking not to be named.
"The authorities have reinforced security measures on ferries crossing the Suez Canal into the Sinai peninsula," he added.
The Rafah crossing in southern Gaza is the territory’s only one that is not under the control of Israel, which sealed off the coastal strip after the democratically-elected Hamas seized power there in June 2007 in a move that aid agencies say has created a humanitarian crisis.
"We want the Israeli blockade that is making our Palestinian brothers live in inhuman conditions to be lifted," said Muslim Brother MP and convoy spokesman Hamdi Hassan before leaving Cairo.
"We also want to denounce the Egyptian government which is keeping the Rafah crossing closed in agreement with Israel, which makes life even more difficult for the Palestinians,” he added, noting that the Egyptian government has destroyed tunnels that were the only means the Gaza Strip had to receive aid.
While Israel allows extremely limited amounts of aid through its crossings with the Gaza Strip, Egypt has been clamping down on the tunnels that take many staples from its territory into Gaza.
Earlier this month in honor of Ramadan, Egypt opened Rafah briefly to allow thousands in and out of the besieged Hamas-run territory, including Palestinians requiring treatment in Egyptian hospitals, and Palestinians holding Egyptian passports
Egypt has refused to open the Rafah crossing permanently.
In related news, Egyptian police trying shot dead a Sudanese man who tried to slip across the frontier overnight, medical and security sources said on Wednesday, bringing to 23 the number of African migrants killed at the border this year.
(Agencies via Alarabiya)