Egypt Seals Borders, Gazans Defiant

By Marwa El-Naggar

RAFAH — Egypt tried Friday, January 25, to seal its porous borders with the Gaza Strip to stem a three-day uncontrolled flood of Palestinians from the fenced-off territory, but Palestinians defied the move and ploughed new border breaches to stock up on desperately needed supplies.

Egyptian security forces tried in vain to block new breaches created by Palestinians by using tanks, witnesses told IslamOnline.net’s correspondent in Rafah.

Palestinians defied Egyptian attempts to reseal its border, using a bulldozer that opened two new breaches in the frontier.

Egyptian police shot in the air and used electric batons to disperse more Palestinians, who seized on the opportunity to cross the border on foot, in donkey carts and by car, defying Egypt’s 1300 GMT deadline for everyone to go home, according to IOL’s correspondent.

Ambulances were seen rushing Palestinians to the hospital in the immediate vicinity.

"It is extremely chaotic right here," IOL’s correspondent described the situation.

Security sources admitted the difficulty of fully controlling the entry of Palestinians because of the number of openings through which they are entering.

Police had earlier blocked Gazans from crossing over into Egypt through the largest of the breaches which Palestinians blew in the border wall on Tuesday night in the frontier town of Rafah, sparking an exodus of hundreds of thousands.

Egyptian armored vehicles arrived with coils of barbed wire in readiness to reseal numerous minor border breaches.

Egypt has been under pressures from Israel and the United States to take control of the situation at border with Gaza.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice earlier called on Egypt to control its border.

"I understand it is a difficult situation for them (Egypt)," Rice said. "But it is an international border, it needs to be protected and I believe that the Egyptians understand the importance of doing that."

Israel claimed on Thursday, January 24, there were fears that some people might sneak into Israel from Egypt across the borders to attack Israeli targets

Pleas

Gazans have appealed to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to keep the Rafah crossing open.

"We are helpless and have no other choice but to get supplies from Egypt," one told IOL, while carrying a backbreaking bundle of food stuffs.

"Please Mubarak, don’t close the crossing now," added another.

President Mubarak had said he ordered troops in Rafah to allow the Palestinians in to get much-needed supplies. He reiterated on Thursday that Egypt would not let the Palestinians starve.

"I pleaded to Egyptian security officers to allow me with my 13-year-old son, who is a cancer patient, to get treatment in Egypt," Om Moaz said, chocking back tears.

Om Moqil’s utmost ambition was to get a goat and a sheep to supply her extended family with enough milk and meat.

"They are waiting for me out there, but I’m afraid that the Egyptians would deny me access," she said.

Earlier on Friday, tensions flared at the border as crowding Gazans threw stones at Egyptian forces, who responded with batons and water cannons.

"I have two brothers still inside Egypt. They should not close the border until everyone returns," said angry Mohammed al-Masri, 20.

The Hamas-led government in Gaza urged Egypt to craft a mechanism to allow goods into the besieged strip.

"We insist and urge our Egyptian brothers that there must be a mechanism to allow the passage of people and goods through the Rafah crossing in a legal and organized manner," said spokesman Taher al-Nono, referring to the once European-monitored border terminal.

After Hamas seized control of the territory to face what it termed a coup by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement, Israel sealed Gaza and isolated it.

The Rafah crossing, Gaza’s only border post that bypasses Israel, has been closed almost continuously.

– Additional Reporting By Iman Abdel Monaem (Source: IslamOnline.net)

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