Breached border
Photo: AFP

'Flour? Terrorists crossing through Rafah'

Defense establishment follows events at Egypt-Gaza crossing with concern: 'The free passage of Palestinians into Egypt and back, without any supervision, significantly increases the threat coming from the Strip'

IDF officials on Wednesday described the situation at the breached Rafah crossing between the Gaza Strip and Sinai as "a first-class security risk".


According to a military source, "The free passage of Palestinians into Egypt and back, significantly increases the security threat coming from the Gaza Strip."


On Tuesday night, the Palestinians efforts to break the Israeli siege on Gaza succeeded. Gunmen set off several explosive devices along the concrete wall dividing Rafah, and hundreds of Gazans began crossing the border into Sinai.


Egyptian authorities were then forced to open the border, which was crossed by tens of thousands of people by the late morning hours.


Hamas rushed to declare that the closure on the Strip had been breached and that flour and medicines were pouring into Gaza from Egypt.


But according to sources at the Israeli defense establishment, who followed the situation with great concern, flour was not the only thing brought into Gaza.


"It clear that each time civilians cross the border, terror activists are also there, taking advantage of the situation for their own needs," said an Israeli defense officials. "This creates a challenge which is difficult to deal with, and we must do something about it."

Palestinians cross border (AP)


Israel recently expressed its anger over a similar incident, when hundreds of Palestinian pilgrims, returning from Saudi Arabia, entered the Strip unsupervised. The Jewish state had pointed a finger at Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, and this incident joined another diplomatic crisis between Jerusalem and Cairo.


Smelling freedom

By late morning, Palestinians across Gaza were trying to reach the border, pushing to board buses, piling into the backs of pickup trucks. However, shops on the Egyptian side had sold most of their wares.


Mohammed Abu Ghazel, 29, said he had crossed the border three times. He bought cigarettes worth $53 in Egypt and sold them for five times that in Gaza, he said.


"This can feed my family for a month," he said.


Guards directed the crowds over the fallen metal through two main crossing areas, inspecting some bags. One man returning to Gaza carried seven pistols that were confiscated by Hamas police. Others walked unhindered over the piles of scrap metal that once made up the border wall.


Gazan Ibrahim Abu Taha, 45, a father of seven, was in the Egyptian section of Rafah with his two brothers and $185 in his pocket. "We want to buy food, we want to buy rice and sugar, milk and wheat and some cheese," Abu Taha said in a telephone interview, adding that he would also buy cheap Egyptian cigarettes.


Abu Taha said he could get such basic foods in Gaza, but at three times the cost.


An off-duty Hamas security officer who identified himself as Abdel Rahman, 29, said this was his first time out of Gaza.


"I can smell the freedom," he said. "We need no border after today."


IDF forces operated in the southern Gaza Strip on Tuesday night, not far from the Rafah crossing. During the operation, which was completed Wednesday morning, some 20 suspects were arrested and taken in for questioning by security forces.


During another raid in the southern Strip, the forces hit several gunmen, killing at least one of them.


AP contributed to this report


פרסום ראשון: 01.23.08, 11:12
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