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Home > News & Analysis > Analysis
Promised Crossing Denied
Mohammed Omer, Inter Press Service, Jun 10, 2011

Many hoping to find free movement between Egypt and Gaza have found the border gates at the Rafah crossing closed. Egyptian officials closed the gates on Saturday, according to Palestinian officials.

Ayyoub Abu Shaar, the official who usually communicates with the Egyptian side is no longer able to reach his counterpart. A number of ambulances and buses carrying patients are waiting between the crossings.

Behind the gate a scaffolding has been erected, supposedly for painting the gate. A young student called this "a ridiculous excuse to delay opening the Rafah crossing."

Rafah crossing is the only access to Gaza not physically controlled by Israel. Egypt announced the permanent reopening of this crossing last week, after it was largely shut in June 2006 when Israel imposed its blockade, after Hamas won the Palestinian legislative council elections.

The closure of the Rafah border had been part of siege policy by Israel and Egypt aimed at cutting off Hamas. The siege has created economic hardship by limiting shipment of goods in and out of the Palestinian occupied territories.

Egypt's decision to reopen Rafah came more than three months after former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak resigned following 18 days of massive street protests against his rule. This easing of crossing restrictions was described by Abu Shaar as a "very courageous decision" which would enable him to offer all his full-time staff regular work again.

Now crowds have been banging on the gates, chanting "Open, Open, Open", and at one point they broke the chain and went across the border. "I can't watch my son die in front of my eyes," the father of 11-year-old Mohammed Ali Saleh screamed at Egyptian troops.

Egyptian state television later said that the crossing had reopened, but only for pedestrians, as the work being carried out "prevented the passage" of vehicles. Palestinian officials, however, said that the border was still closed. Palestinian police moved Palestinians waiting to travel to a point away from the border fence.

Naziha Al-Sebakhi, 63, has been waiting to travel to Egypt to receive medical treatment on her leg. According to the newly announced Egyptian agreement, she is supposed to travel without restrictions.

"I beg you to open the crossing," she says to Egyptian officials. "You brothers of Egypt have humiliated us for so long. Isn't it time we had our dignity back?"

To read the full article please visit Inter Press Service.

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