Thousands of Palestinians broke through Egyptian and Palestinian Authority lines on the Gaza border for a second day Friday, pouring into Egypt in defiance of government attempts to secure the frontier.
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas toured the Rafah border Friday and met with senior Egyptian officials.
“We are working with our brothers, the Egyptians, to close the openings so the situation will be under control in 2-3 days,” he said.
Witnesses reported that armed Palestinians, mainly Hamas and Popular Resistance Committees members, have recently managed to create an additional opening in the fence by ramming a truck into it. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of Palestinians were able to cross the border before PA police forces were able to control the scene.
However, PA security officials said only a few dozen Palestinians crossed the border.
PA National Security Advisor Jibril Rajoub is focusing his efforts on solving the Rafah crossing issue, but Palestinian sources said they doubt the problem will be resolved anytime soon due to the desire of people on both sides of the Gaza-Egypt border to meet and due to the fact that many Palestinians wish to study in Egyptian universities or receive medical treatment there.
Border rush embarrassing Sharon
The Gaza crossings issue is still under dispute. The Palestinians demand free passage of citizens through the Rafah border crossing, and said they are willing to present Israel with guarantees in the form of the presence of an international force, presumably from the EU.
However Israel has announced the closing down of the Rafah crossing, requesting that the Kerem Shalom crossing be used by Israel, Egypt and the Palestinians.
The Palestinians have denied the request, but said they agree to the passage of goods through the Kerem Shalom or Nitzana crossings so Israel would be able to make certain that no weapons are smuggled.
The PA and Egypt realize that the continued rush of Palestinians to the Rahaf border crossing is an embarrassment to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, especially in light of reports in Israel regarding the danger of al-Qaeda terrorists or terrorists belonging to other organizations infiltrating the area through the Rafah crossing.
Moreover, Israeli defense officials fear an open border may allow Palestinian terrorists to infiltrate Israel from other areas along the Sinai border.
Associated Press contributed to this report