Tuesday, February 05, 2008

GAZA, EGYPT AND ISRAEL...WHAT A DRAG


As Israeli conducted more air strikes on Gaza, Egypt called on Hamas to allow Palestinian Authority personnel to oversee Egypt's border with the Gaza Strip, and warned Palestinians in Gaza not to test Egypt's patience. This followed clashes on that border as Egypt closed it down.

Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit called for reason to prevail within the leadership of Hamas in Gaza, the day after Palestinian gunmen and Egyptian forces exchanged fire at the Gaza-Egypt border, killing one person and wounding 59 others.

"We call on the authorities governing the (Gaza) Strip to allow observers and individuals from the Palestinian Authority to return once again to the crossing to oversee the implementation of (the 2005 border) agreement," he said.

"Egypt is generous and Egypt is patient. Egypt has its patience, but this patience undoubtedly has its limits," Aboul Gheit told reporters.

Palestinian gunmen and Egyptian forces exchanged fire at Gaza Strip's border with Egypt on Monday and a Palestinian civilian died in the fighting, medical workers said.

Egyptian security officials said Palestinians also threw petrol bombs at the police and border guards and at the border wall separating Egypt and the Gaza Strip.

Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, in an interview published on Tuesday in a Spanish newspaper, said that Egypt will not allow Palestinians to breach its border with Gaza again.

"It is a mistake to besiege the Palestinians but we will not accept that the border be left open indefinitely. What happened will not be repeated," he told the daily newspaper ABC.

Up to half of Gaza's 1.5 million swarmed into Egypt over the past 12 days to stock up on fuel, medicines and other supplies after militants blew large sections of the border barriers.

Senior Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar said Saturday, February 2, his group had agreed with Egypt on restoring order to the chaotic frontier.

People on both sides of the border were dismayed by the closure of the joint borders.

"I am sick, I need to see a doctor in Egypt," complained Zaki Abu Nasira, a 45-year-old from the southern Gaza town of Khan Yunes.

"There is no medicine here, we don't have the medicine that I need here."

Palestinian families reunited by the fall of the Rafah wall regretted they would face separation again.

"This is not right, this is injustice," Jamil Toman, a 63-year-old Palestinian and Cairo resident who had been visiting relatives in Gaza, told Reuters.

Toman left the Gaza Strip before the 1967 war in which Israel occupied the territory, and has not been able to get an Israeli permit to return for the past 40 years.

Nafisa Mahmoud, an Egyptian women, was in tears as she returned to Egypt from visiting friends in Gaza.

"It's so sad that they closed the border, we are one people and should be able to visit each other without obstacles."
By the way, eight persons are reported dead in today's Israeli air strikes.

The following is from the Middle East Times.

Tensions on Gaza-Egypt border
By SANA ABDALLAH

Cautious calm returned to the Rafah border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt on Tuesday after violent clashes left one Palestinian dead and scores of others injured amid growing tension following Egypt's closure of the border and uncertainty surrounding the future management of the frontier.

Egyptian security forces took total control of the border, closing holes in the barrier that were blasted open by Palestinian militants, while Hamas security forces reportedly coordinated with their Egyptian counterparts to prevent a repetition of the confrontations that erupted late Monday.

One Palestinian man was shot dead and other protesters and Egyptian soldiers were injured when a demonstration protesting the Egyptian closure of the Rafah crossing turned violent.

Militants blew open the border wall on Jan. 23 as half of Gaza's 1.5 million people flooded into Egypt, which allowed them entry to buy desperately-needed supplies that had run out due to a suffocating Israeli blockade.

But Egypt resealed its border two weeks later as the authorities tried to prevent more people from swarming into the country and after failing to secure an inter-Palestinian agreement on managing the frontier.

Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic movement that has been controlling the impoverished coastal strip since ousting the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority (PA) of President Mahmoud Abbas last June, said Tuesday it regretted the use of force by Egyptian security forces and the "treatment that Egyptian security has metted out to Palestinian citizens," in reference to Monday evening's clashes.

While the tension at the crossing eased, the strain of the people's confinement in Gaza reportedly erupted elsewhere on Tuesday. News agencies reported that hundreds of Palestinians who were rounded up by Egyptian authorities following the clashes at the border set fire to a government building in the Egypt's Rafah town.

Egyptian security sources said the authorities detained some 500 Palestinians in an administrative building in Rafah late on Monday.

"They set fire to the building, broke windows and destroyed furniture," the source said, according to AFP news agency, adding these Palestinians would be allowed back into Gaza "once the arrangements are made."

Remarking on the border clashes, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak insisted, in an interview published in Spain's ABC daily newspaper on Tuesday, that "we did not give any order to shoot anyone."

Mubarak also stressed that Egypt will not allow the Rafah border with Gaza to be breached again. "It is a mistake to besiege the Palestinians but we will not accept that the border be left open indefinitely," he told the Spanish daily. "What happened will not be repeated."

Middle East analysts say Cairo has been placed in an awkward position as it struggles between not appearing as if it is collaborating in the starvation of the besieged Palestinians in Gaza and controlling its borders with the strip, which was under Egyptian control when Israel captured it in 1967.

Analysts say that preventing another penetration of this crossing is easier said than done if the animosity remains between rival Hamas the PA – and all indications point to a continued enmity.

In separate talks with Fatah and Hamas leaders in Cairo last week, Egypt failed to secure a Palestinian agreement on managing the Rafah crossing.

The PA sought to reactivate a 2005 agreement that Hamas categorically refuses because it includes supervision by European Union monitors and Israeli electronic surveillance that gives it the final say over the movement of goods and people.

Hamas said it wanted a purely Egyptian-Palestinian control with no Israeli or foreign interference, but showed readiness to accept the deployment of PA representatives at the Rafah terminal, although such a move may appear as if the Islamic group was yielding power back to the PA.

The continued power struggle between the two main Palestinian factions amid the stifling Israeli blockade on Gaza's population is dimming hopes for any formal arrangement that would prevent chaos in the border area.

Just as Palestinians were able to blast open the barrier last month, they can do it again. But like Monday's clashes showed, the Egyptian authorities will not be so hospitable the next time.

1 comment:

Alex said...

What do you think of this samsonblinded.org/blog/israel-cannot-blockade-gaza.htm ? Shoher is arguably the most right Israeli today, but he argues Israel should talk to Hamas as Egypt will not maintain the blockade of Gaza.