By Mohammad Abu Aita
RAFAH — Egyptians opened their homes and shops to solace Palestinians who came in their thousands from the Gaza Strip seeking food supplies.
"We have been packing up packages of foodstuffs for days waiting for this moment," Abdul-Rahman Al-Shurbaji told IslamOnline.net on Wednesday, January 23.
Many Egyptian families in the cities of Rafah and El-Arish opened their houses to host exhausted Palestinians.
Restaurants and coffee shops were offering free meals and drinks.
Trucks carrying foodstuffs were coming from Cairo to Arish to meet the urgent needs of Palestinians.
"Thank God. Our Egyptian brothers did not let us down," said jubilant Huda, a Gazan mother.
Thousands of Palestinians forced their way into Egypt early Wednesday after gunmen blasted several holes into the border wall.
Many rushed to stock up on goods — much cheaper in Egypt – and others raced to petrol stations to buy fuel before returning to Gaza.
"I’m going to Egypt for treatment," said chronically-diseased Abu Amer.
Hundreds of stranded Palestinians in Egypt were able to move back into the impoverished strip.
"At last, I’m back to Gaza," said Ahmed, holding back his tears.
"I finally feel sunlight after long days in the dark," he said, figuratively referring his long stay in Egyptian Rafah because of the closure of the borders.
Amiah Hajjah kneeled to the ground, thanking God for returning to Gaza.
"I will finally see my sons, neighbors and friends again," said the caricaturist.
"My worst nightmare was to be left stranded for ever."
Egyptian security forces did not intervene to stop the streaming of Gazans in and out of the Strip.
"I told (security forces) to allow them to buy their basic needs and go back to Gaza as long as they are not carrying arms or anything illegal," President Hosni Mubarak told reporters in Cairo.
He said the decision was made to relieve Palestinians after months of crippling Israeli blockade.
Palestinians are "hungry because of the Israeli blockade and the Egyptian security forces escorted them to buy their goods and then they went back to the Gaza Strip," Mubarak added.
Abdullah Al-Ashaal, a former assistant foreign minister and international law professor, welcomed the move.
He said the regime has reacted to meet the humanitarian needs of the Palestinians.
"What happened today was a spontaneous reaction from the Palestinians who have been under a crippling blockade," he told IOL.
The former diplomat does not believe Egypt was trying to send a message to Israel or its ally United States.
"Mubarak doesn’t care for the reaction of any party," said Ashaal.
"He only cares for the Palestinians who are suffocating in Gaza."
Israel has repeatedly accused Egypt of not doing enough to prevent alleged arms smuggling into Gaza.
Tension between the two countries, tied by a peace treaty, have escalated over an Israeli hand in the Congress decision to freeze a portion of aid to Egypt.
-Additional Reporting by Mohammad Sabry (Source: IslamOnline.net)