01/23/2008, 00.00
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Tensions in Rafah, thousands of Palestinians surge over the Egyptian border

This morning armed men blew up a section of the border wall. People pored into Egypt in desperate search of food and fuel; the police did not intervene. For days Hamas had urged Cairo to open the border after the Israeli embargo.

Gaza (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Thousands of Palestinians poured into Egypt across the Rafah border to buy food, fuel and other supplies. This morning before dawn, masked armed men used explosives to breach the wall that divides Egypt and Gaza.  Eyewitnesses recount that some people have already made the return journey laden with food, cigarettes and plastic bottles full of petrol.  Egyptian police have so far not intervened.

Last week Israel, with full backing from Egypt, closed all crossings into Gaza in attempts to stop militants from firing rockets into the southern parts of its territory.  On January 21st it then imposed an embargo, which has since brought the Palestinian population to its knees.  Yesterday, yielding to International pressure, the drastic blockade was loosened and fuel supplies arrived in the Strip which allowed the central power station to resume production.

Over the past days Hamas, who control Gaza, have organised daily public demonstrations along the Egyptian border with the apparent aim of influencing Arab opinion to push Egypt to open the Rafah border, allowing the Territory to come out of isolation.   Yesterday thousands of women, brought there by Hamas, attempted to breach the barriers and were held back by Egyptian forces.  In the ensuing disorder, in which shots were even fired, dozens were injured, bruised and intoxicated by tear gas.


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