Egypt opens Rafah border, Palestinians say not enough

Egypt opens Rafah border, Palestinians say not enough

CAIRO: Egypt opened the Rafah Border Crossing with the Gaza Strip on Wednesday in an effort to allow Palestinians with medical emergencies to cross into Egypt to seek assistance. The border was to remain open through Thursday, but a number of Palestinians have told Bikya Masr from the border area that it is “too little, too late.”

According to news reports, the border will remain open for the two days in order to allow Palestinians to seek medical aid across the border in Egypt, but will be required to return to Gaza on Thursday evening.

“Who do they think they are only opening the border for two days?” asked Mohamed, a bus driver in Gaza who was at the border helping to carry passengers to and from the border. “I see so many people who need major help and the Egyptian government is doing nothing.”

The move comes as eyewitnesses along the Egyptian side of the border reported last week that the steel wall allegedly being erected by the Egyptian government, is near completion. Cairo has neither denied nor affirmed they are constructing a steel barrier that goes some 20 meters under ground in an effort to curtail smuggling tunnels along the border, but the reports revealed this process is going forward.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said earlier this year that his country has a right to “national sovereignty” when asked about the wall.

For Palestinians and a number of Egyptian activists, Gaza has become a tipping point. Many blame the Egyptian government for the continuation of the economic blockade on the 1.5 million inhabitants of Gaza, which has been in place since Hamas took control of the area in June 2007. Israel argues Hamas is using the smuggling tunnels to bring weapons into Gaza that would be used by militants to attack Israeli targets.

Palestinians deny this. “We want to get the things our families and friends need to survive into Gaza and we will find any way possible to get this done. There are no weapons,” said Yussif Jabr, an alias for a smuggler.