GAZA STRIP: Palestinians try to break through closed Egyptian terminal
Just a week after Egypt reopened its border crossing to Gaza Strip, Palestinians found Saturday that the checkpoint was temporarily closed without warning and they complained that leaving the enclave is not as simple as they expected it would be.
Egyptian officials at the Rafah crossing said the terminal was closed for technical problems and maintenance. By the afternoon, they said Gazans could cross to the Egyptian side, but only on foot rather than using the usual buses. They did not say when the border would reopen fully.
Officials for Hamas, which controls Gaza, rejected the new terms and called upon Egypt to open the crossing as promised.
On Saturday, hundreds of frustrated Palestinian travelers stormed the Egyptian gate of Rafah crossing after learning about the restrictions.
"I have completed my documents at the Palestinian side and have got my passport stamped. But I was surprised that the Egyptians closed the borders," said Nasser Bayed, who wants to go to Egypt for bone marrow surgery.
"My husband is so sick. He needs an urgent surgery in the heart and he may die here if he is not allowed to cross today," said Abla Farra, from inside an ambulance that carried her husband at the Egyptian gate of the crossing.
Hamas blamed Egypt for hindering the traffic of Palestinian travelers, saying Egyptian authorities have sent back scores of passengers over the last week for security reasons.
About 5,000 Palestinians, most of them members of Hamas, are reportedly on a blacklist used by Egyptian security officials to prevent extremists or terrorists from crossing the border.
Israel has voiced concerns that Hamas will take advantage of the border opening to bring fighters and weapons to Gaza.
-- Ahmed Aldabba in Rafah
Photo: Palestinians shout in front of Egyptian soldiers at the iron gate of the Rafah border crossing from the Gaza Strip. Credit: Eyad Baba / Associated Press.