Rafah Crossing: Gunfire, Tears, Anger

RAFAH, Gaza Strip — The otherwise calm situation at the officially-closed Rafah border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt turned chaotic on Tuesday, January 22, amid gunfire, anger and tears.

"No one in the world sees us, no one is helping us," Shamiya Arafat, a Gazan mother of six, told Agence France Presse (AFP).

"The entire Arab world should be helping us, but they are standing with Israel because they are scared of America and of Israel," she cried.

More than 1,000 Gazans, mostly women, and 30 ambulances carrying wounded people gathered near the Rafah terminal.

The situation became chaotic when some of the women tried and eventually managed to storm their way across the gate into Egypt.

"Why doesn’t Egypt open the crossing," fumed Umm Mohammed, a 42-year-old mother of five.

"Because (US President George W. Bush) gives them dollars."

The Rafah crossing is Gaza Strip’s only window to the outside world.

With only a few exceptions, it has been closed since Hamas came to power in 2006.

The crossing was supposed to be staffed by international observers and have cameras running to allow Israel to continue monitoring those passing through.

Clashes

The Hamas-called rally turned violent after some demonstrators started to throw stones at Egyptian security troops and gunshots heard from the Palestinian side.

Egyptian security forces fired water cannon to disperse the protesters on the Palestinian side and detained some of them.

Nearly 60 Palestinian women and eleven Egyptian policemen were injured, including one from gunfire and the other 10 from rocks thrown at them.

Several bloodied people were seen being rushed from the scene and back into Gaza on stretchers.

Fearing the confrontation may go out of control, especially after gunshots were heard on the Palestinian side, Hamas urged the female protesters to leave.

The protesters were dispersed by baton-wielding Hamas-led security forces.

"Hamas is not responsible for anything that happens here… Everyone has to leave immediately," an announcement was made on loudspeakers.

After about two hours, Egyptian security forces took control of the situation and a group of 40 women and 10 young people was returned to Gaza later.

Egypt regretted the whole episode and urged Hamas to urge resident to avoid further unrest.

Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki expressed "deep regret at the events witnessed at the Rafah border crossing."

"[Egypt] asks those in control of the Gaza Strip to work to avoid the repetition of such a situation."

(Source: IslamOnline.net)

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