Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Hamas Blows Up Egypt's Border Wall...


Tens of thousands of Palestinians poured into Egypt from Gaza Wednesday after Hamas used land mines to blow up most of the seven-mile border wall dividing Egypt and Gaza at Rafah.

This was the result of a months long operation by Hamas to destroy the wall:

a Hamas border guard interviewed by The Times at the border today admitted that the Islamist group was responsible and had been involved for months in slicing through the heavy metal wall using oxy-acetylene cutting torches.

That meant that when the explosive charges were set off in 17 different locations after midnight last night the 40ft wall came tumbling down, leaving it lying like a broken concertina down the middle of no-man's land as an estimated 350,000 Gazans flooded into Egypt.

The guard, Lieutenant Abu Usama of the Palestinian National Security, said of the cutting operation: "I've seen this happening over the last few months. It happened in the daytime but was covered up so that nobody would see."

Asked whether he had reported it to the government, he replied: "It was the government that was doing this. Who would I report it to?"

Abu Usama, who normally works from a small guard cabin in no-man's land, added: "Last night we were told to keep away from the wall. We were ordered to stay away because they were going to break the blockade."

The skill of the Hamas demolition operation was clear to see along the border today, although The Times could not visit the entire length of the border. Where the charges had been laid, the wall was heavily damaged. Elsewhere it appeared to be clearly cut.

The destruction of the wall prompted hundreds of thousands to cross into Egypt – and Egyptian border guards did not try to stem the tide of humanity.

The `impoversished' Palestinians quickly turned Rafah and the neighboring town of El Arish into a bazaar:

Thousands of people were herding back cows, sheep and even camels from Egypt into the Gaza strip. Others brought back motorbikes while many women lugged back cans of olive oil and men could be seen weighed down with jerry-cans full of fuel.

Moneychangers flocked to the border, offering Egyptian pounds and American dollars for the Gazans' Israeli shekels. The shops soon began to run out, however, and those returning were complaining of sky-rocketing prices.

Instead, many people jumped into taxis - or even on the roofs of taxis - to take themselves to El Arish, 45km away, the nearest town with shops.

In no-man's land, along the stretch that the Israelis used to call Philadelphia Road before their disengagement in 2005, Hamas gunmen raced along in pick-up trucks flying the group's green flag. Egyptian riot police waited by the gates of the old border crossing, leaning with nonchalance against their riot shields.


Egyptian shopkeepers swiftly raised prices of milk, taxi rides and cigarettes, but that did not deter the Gazans, for many of whom it was their first trip out of the territory.

Some staggered back into Gaza carrying televisions, and others sported brand-new mobile phones. In Gaza City, prices of cigarettes - which had skyrocketed during the total blockade of the past week - fell by 70 per cent in a few hours.

One little point of interest about this particular article was the surprised comments by readers of this London Times article..most of whom apparently had no idea that the Egyptians wall off their Arab `brothers' with even less regard for them than the Israelis! One of them even indignantly referred to deliberate misinformation by the media for not previously mentioning this interesting little factoid. I can't imagine what they'd say if they knew about the prison-like conditions Palestinians live under in Lebanon in camps like Ein-Al-Hiwah or the wholesale expulsions from countries like Iraq, Kuwait and Jordan.

For Hamas, of course, this is a major coup. Egypt has been under pressure from Condi Rice and the US to a least maintain a semblance of the security agreements they signed with the US and Israel when the Israelis retreated from Gaza to secure the borders and prevent the smuggling of arms, terrorists and heavy weapons.

Now, with an assist from Hamas, they won't even bother to maintain the appearance of controlling the borders.

Which, of course, makes a hollow mockery out of all those carefully prepared security agreements US Secretary of State Condi Rice midwifed that were supposed to deal with this situation in exchange for the Israelis leaving Gaza - but then, some of us saw that a long time ago.

Just like Oslo, and in South Lebanon, the Israelis are reaping the dubious benefits of surrenduring strategic territory into a vacuum and leaving it to be occupied by their enemies. You'd think they would have learned that lesson by now.

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