Armed Egyptian Bedouins opened fire in the air to warn away Palestinians, highlighting growing anger over food shortages and price rises triggered by the breaching of the border wall with Gaza, witnesses said.
The confrontation in the town of al-Joura occurred as residents on the Egyptian side of the border said shops had run out of goods since hundreds of thousands of Palestinians poured into Egypt when Hamas blew up the wall last week.
Stores run out of supplies (Photo: Reuters)
"The stores are empty and what is available is so expensive," said Youssef Ali, a Bedouin in the divided border town of Rafah. "The Bedouins are poor. The income of many Bedouins is not more than $30 a month."
The emptying of shop shelves and a block by Cairo on new supplies has prompted thousands of Palestinians to go home since Sunday, with some saying it was now easier to shop in Gaza than in Egypt.
"The places are closed or empty. I am going back empty handed," said Mahmoud Mansour, a 52-year-old from Gaza City.
Rafah residents and shopkeepers said the price of tea and some other goods had tripled. A pack of cigarettes had increased to 5 Egyptian pounds (90 cents) from 1.5 pounds.
The Egyptian Foreign Ministry said on Monday Cairo wanted Abbas' Palestinian Authority to control border crossings.
"There were too many people and too much money coming in. All the food is finished and the petrol is finished," said 36-year-old Mohamed Farah, an Egyptian government employee.
Many shops in Rafah were shut on Monday due to lack of supplies and even those that were open had nearly empty shelves.
Mohamed Suleiman Mahmoud, who owns a small supermarket, said he had ordered 20,000 Egyptian pounds of cheese, milk, fruit and vegetables but the shipment was still being held up by Egyptian authorities at a bridge linking Sinai with mainland Egypt.
A Reuters reporter saw hundreds of trucks carrying sugar, rice, medicine, livestock and carpets at the bridge on Monday.
Mohamed Saber from the Doctors' Syndicate Relief Committee said 13 trucks with food, blankets and medicine had been held up at the bridge.
The Palestinians poured tens of millions of pounds into impoverished towns on the Egyptian side of the border when they streamed across to stock up on food, petrol and other goods. Some Egyptian civil servants quit their jobs temporarily to become street vendors or money changers while business flourished.