Restricting Traffic Across Border from Gaza
Trucks waiting in the mud in Rafah.
by C. McDonough / VOA Photo
— Egyptian border guards have begun restricting traffic across the border
from the Gaza Strip, five days after parts of a border security fence
was blown up, allowing Palestinians to flood into Egypt to
buy food and supplies.
Egyptian authorities are blocking supply trucks that are headed toward
Rafah – so shopkeepers cannot replenish the supplies that have lured
hundreds of thousands of Gazans across the border in recent
set up a stage and loudspeakers for a rally at the border,
but a drenching rain put a damper on the event. Instead,
scores of children huddled under the
stage to try to stay dry. More people sought shelter from the downpour under
the toppled sections of the metal barricade that used to mark the border
between Egypt and Gaza, until it was knocked down on Wednesday.
days of virtually unrestricted traffic, Egyptian border guards
began exerting some control over the vehicles crossing the
border. They refused to
let Egyptian-registered cars enter Gaza, and Hamas-affiliated gunmen on the
other side were blocking Palestinian-registered vehicles from entering Egypt.
continued to pass through freely. The rain kept crowds thinner
than on previous days, and turned the town into a muddy mess.
But there were still thousands of people gingerly navigating
around badly flooded streets and slogging through ankle-deep
mud to cross the border in both directions.
Egyptian security forces brought in more reinforcements and set up
scores of checkpoints on every road leading out of Rafah to prevent Palestinians
Gaza from heading for the nearby town of El-Arish, about 35 kilometers away.
In some places,
there were roadblocks every 100 meters, and vehicles were being
thoroughly checked at each one. But it was clear that those
efforts were not entirely successful. At one checkpoint, while
the officers were busy examining the identification of a carload
of journalists, at least 20 Palestinians could be seen sprinting
across the road behind them, working their way to El-Arish
on foot through the olive-trees.
Yousra Azzam said she was trying to get to El-Arish to apply
for a visa to the United Arab Emirates. Her husband and children
live there, she said, and she wants to join them.
were still coming to do business, buying and selling goods
such as motorcycles, jars of honey and laundry detergent. Many
complained that the prices have risen sharply since the border
was breached, and accused Egyptian traders of price-gouging.
many of the Palestinians and Egyptians doing business with
them would like the border to remain open in some way, some
people are beginning to tire
of the pandemonium.
Palestinian named Zayed Mismeh said he would prefer a normal
border crossing, where he could enter Egypt legally with a
stamp in his passport. He said, ‘We do not want this chaos.’
despite the bad weather, he returned to Egypt to buy supplies
because he fears the authorities will soon close the border
Cairo, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul-Gheit said Egypt
will take the necessary measures to control the Gaza border
issue has sparked a series of high-level diplomatic activity
throughout the region, including a meeting of Arab League foreign
ministers and talks between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert
and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Mr. Abbas
wants the Palestinian Authority, run by his Fatah faction,
to take control of the Rafah crossing.
people have crossed from Gaza into Egypt since the border wall
was toppled on Wednesday, days after Israel began imposing
a near total blockade on the Gaza Strip in an effort to stop
rocket attacks on Israeli cities. Egyptian security forces
tried and failed to re-close the border by force on Friday,
but they withdrew after clashes erupted and militants knocked
down a new section of the barricade with a bulldozer.
border post is the only way in or out of Gaza that bypasses
Israel, but it has been almost entirely closed since Hamas
violently took control of Gaza in June.