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EGYPT: Change of heart

February 7, 2008 |  8:44 am

As the border with the Gaza Strip was being sealed off, the Egyptian state-owned media launched a campaign apparently seeking to overturn public sympathy for the Palestinians. Since Egypt started to regain control over its border, preventing Palestinians from coming in, newspapers have become harsh, with front-page news about Palestinians shooting at Egyptian soldiers, weapons smuggling, terrorism and reports of false currency in the Sinai and threats to national security.

The new content replaces headlines that showed sympathy with the Palestinians, stressing President Hosni Mubarak's statements that Egypt would not let the Palestinians starve. However, 10 days later, a change of heart has become crystal-clear.

Rosa al-Yousef, a state-owned paper known as the most vocal mouthpiece of the regime, has spearheaded the anti-Palestinian campaign. "Egypt is generous and patient but its patience has limits," warned a front-page headline that appeared after skirmishes the Egyptian-Palestinian borders earlier this week. The paper even questioned whether Gaza had a humanitarian crisis, hinting that Gazans were well-off.

"It is not true that the siege imposed on Gaza caused a serious humanitarian crisis that eventually led to the Palestinian flood [into Egypt]," wrote Abdullah Kamal, Rosa-al-Yousef's editor-in-chief and a staunch proponent of Mubarak's regime. "Each [Gazan] comer spent an average of US$260 in three days....the total spending during that period [where the Gazans broke through Egypt] reached US$ 220 million. These figures raise real questions about the financial situation in the Gaza Strip."

— Noha El-Hennawy in Cairo

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