Palestinians Despair at Rafah Border

By Amr El-Kahky
SINAI – the Egyptian peninsula – is said to have been the passage of the prophets, a land bridge across the Red Sea. But for Palestinians it has proved a one-way street because from here, they cannot get back to Gaza.

Thousands are stranded here. One of those unable to get home to Gaza is Ibrahim Al-Ghalban. He was in Saudi Arabia seeking remedy for his nephew’s eye disease.

Now he has been stranded in Rafah, the crossing point back to Gaza, for 45 days.

He says Egyptian and Palestinian officials care only for the runaway Fatah fighters while he and his friends are neglected.
Ghalban said: "We have nothing to do with politics. We want to go home. The Arabs must pressurize Israel to open the crossing point for us to return to Gaza.

"We ran out of money and our fellow Palestinians in Egyptian Rafah are feeding us. Where are the human rights groups? Where is the Red Crescent and Red Cross?"

Long Wait

Umm Yazan from Khan Younis says she has been waiting for 17 days to cross. She is pregnant and is due to give birth this week. She wants to deliver the child in Gaza and be with her family to avoid complications.

Umm Yazan said: "I am afraid that if I deliver the child here I would face difficulties issuing the baby a passport. They may think I am smuggling a baby from Egypt into Gaza."

The Gaza-Egyptian border lies just 500m away from the Egyptian side of Rafah city.

Looking across the borders, the Gaza Strip looks very peaceful.

Hamas vehicles patrol the defining line, raising the Palestinian flag. It is calm after weeks of inter-Palestinian fighting.
At Al-Arish, west of Rafah, some Palestinians sit at a cafe watching TV bulletins, hoping for news of the border re-opening.

Some still have some money and have rented beach houses. They can still afford to cook their food.

But while their children play on the beach, their hopes are dimmed once again, and tomorrow the waiting will go on.
(, July 2, 2007)

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