Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Breaking Out of Gaza (Prison)

Egypt 'won't force Gazans back'
Egypt has said it will not use force to send back Palestinians who crossed from the Gaza Strip in large numbers after parts of the border were breached. Foreign ministry spokesman Hosan Zeki said the border would be closed again when all the Palestinians had returned.

Earlier Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said he had let the Gazans in. Tens of thousands have surged in to buy food and other supplies made scarce by an Israeli blockade - aimed at stopping rocket attacks from Gaza. Egyptian police took no action to stop people crossing but Israel urged Egypt to restore security.

The blockade imposed last week eased slightly on Tuesday to allow some fuel and medicines through, but Israel has now reimposed the fuel restrictions. "We want to buy rice and sugar, milk and wheat and some cheese," said Ibrahim Abu Taha, Gaza resident.

Israel and the US have expressed concern about the events at the Egyptian border, and Israel fears weapons could be smuggled into Gaza. Mr Zeki said Egypt was trying to contain the situation but had "great understanding" of the people of Gaza and their need for basic supplies. People had packed into cars and donkey carts or crossed the border on foot when it was breached.

President Mubarak said he had told his troops to "let them come to eat and buy food and go back, as long as they are not carrying weapons". Palestinians have broken through the border before, in 2005, and it was quickly resealed with barbed wire, but reports say that on this occasion two-thirds of the border wall was destroyed.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniya has called for urgent talks with Egypt and his Palestinian rival, President Mahmoud Abbas, on border crossings. "We do not want to control everything, we are part of the Palestinian people," Mr Haniya said, apparently in response to an offer from Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayad to control Gaza's borders - so far rejected by Israel. Hamas has controlled Gaza since last June. In recent months the border has been mostly sealed, in an understanding between Israel and Egypt.

[Source: Al Jazeera English]

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