Egypt opens Rafah border ahead of Eid holiday
RAFAH: Egypt yesterday opened its border with Hamas-ruled Gaza for a three-day period ahead of a major Muslim holiday this weekend, but imposed tight restrictions on who can travel and did not say whether it would resume normal border operations.
The government in Cairo closed the border Aug. 5, shutting down the Rafah passenger terminal and — according to Egyptian security officials — sealing more than 100 cross-border smuggling tunnels. The move came after militants in Egypt's Sinai desert near Gaza killed 16 Egyptian troops at a border post.
Egyptian President Muhammad Mursi's government suggested the assailants had help from Gaza, a claim Hamas denies. The Egyptian restrictions raised tensions between Mursi and Hamas, both members of the region-wide Muslim Brotherhood and presumably sympathetic to each other.
|Did the Gazooks learn anything from that? I know, I know, rhetorical question...|
The Hamas interior minister, Fathi Hamad, has demanded that Mursi reopen the Rafah crossing. Addressing Egyptian leaders, Hamad called for a different policy. “Palestine should be considered a priority,” he wrote.
|They are, but they are Egyptians and Paleos first, "blood brothers" second. It's a tribal thing...|
Last week, Egypt began allowing stranded travelers to return to Gaza, and some 4,500 have so far made the trip, according to Gaza border officials. Egypt, yesterday, for the first time allowed some border traffic from Gaza.
|Since, after all, he's a Paleo...|
Gaza border official Maher Abu Sabha said two-way traffic will continue for three days, in the run-up to the weekend's Eid el-Fitr holiday, which caps the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. The limited opening is meant to relieve some of the pressure on Gaza, but also suggested there is no imminent decision by Egypt to resume normal border traffic. Gaza officials say thousands of travelers are on a waiting list, hoping to leave the territory.
Since Mursi became president earlier this summer, Hamas has high hopes that the new Egyptian leader will significantly ease the Gaza border blockade, imposed by Israel and Mubarak after Hamas seized the coastal area by force in 2007.
Rafah is key for Gaza, providing the only gate to the outside world for the territory's 1.7 million people. Israel controls the other land crossings, allowing movement for only small numbers of humanitarian cases, as well as access by air and sea.
For now, Gaza imports most
ammunition consumer goods through an Israeli crossing and through hundreds of smuggling tunnels that are also used as a conduit for rockets people and weapons.
Yesterday, the area where the tunnels emerge on the Gaza side was uncharacteristically quiet. Normally, it is abuzz with activity, including the honking of trucks picking up merchandise and the humming of generators powering machinery to pull up the contraband from below.
Hamas security officials were sitting in tents near makeshift gates to the tunnel area. Just a few hundred meters (yards) away, Egyptian soldiers guarded their side of the frontier, some sitting in watchtowers.
|Cheez, all that activity and no sudden, unexplained kabooms?|
Posted by: Steve White