Friday, January 25, 2008

Egypt fails to halt Palestinian influx

Egypt is struggling to put an end to the border incursions by Palestinians desperate to obtain supplies after Israel closed borders and effectively cut off Gaza from the outside world a week ago. The UN had already warned of a humanitarian crisis after electricity supplies faded after fuel dried up in the region. Frustrations amongst the Palestinian people boiled over on Wednesday with many attempting to break across borders with Egypt in order to obtain fuel and food supplies [BBC]. Initially the attempts were repelled by border guards but the walls were breached with explosives and later with bulldozers. Today the trouble boiled over as Egyptian police and army attempted to stop the crowds spilling across the border [CNN]. Many came under fire not only from stones and rocks, but according to some reports, from gunfire. The efforts to hold the Palestinians back failed as militants merely punched a hole in another part of the border with mechanical diggers [BBC]. Egypt has said it would not force the Palestinians back across the border. But as tens of thousands have breached the borders the government’s patience is wearing thin. Israeli PM Ehud Olmert has said he would not let a humanitarian crisis develop. "We will not hit food supplies for children or medicines for the needy," he said "But there is no justification for demanding we allow residents of Gaza to live normal lives while shells and rockets are fired from their streets and courtyards at Sderot and other communities in the south." [BBC]. But President Hosni Mubarak said on Egyptian television, "We are doing our best to help end the Palestinians' suffering, to help end the Israeli measures of mass punishment and to return fuel, electricity supplies and humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip" [BBC].

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