Babylon & Beyond

Observations from Iraq, Iran,
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EGYPT: Warm embrace turns to cold shoulder

January 30, 2008 |  5:09 am

GazaPalestinian Brothers, please go home.

That is the message in Egypt, where over the last week more than 500,000 Palestinians from Gaza have shopped, binged and stocked up on supplies in the Sinai. Palestinians have changed an estimated $100 million into Egyptian pounds.

But Egypt is weary and wary of its spendthrift guests.

To ease them back across the border wall, which was blown up by Hamas during an Israeli fuel blockade, government authorities have ordered many shops to be closed and have tightened checkpoints along the roads between Rafah and El Arish. More than a few Palestinians have stolen cars in Egypt; Bedouin farmers have responded by shooting into the air to scare the Gazans away.

Ammar Mohammed, a Gaza baker, sensed an evaporating hospitality: "The police arrest [Palestinian] people in the streets and send them back home. They chase us in apartments and resorts to send us back home," Mohammed said while roaming with a few of his compatriots who crossed into Egypt last week. "We are leaving today. What else can we do? Would we spend our time hiding from the police? We came here to get some relief not to run and hide from the police."

Jeffrey Fleishman in Cairo and Noha El-Hennawy in El Arish

Photo: Palestinian shopper heads through the mud toward his home in Gaza. Credit: Nasser Nasser/Associated Press