rafah control 298 88 ap.
(photo credit: AP [file])
A crush of 5,000 Palestinians trying to get through the newly opened Rafah border crossing from the Gaza Strip into Egypt Thursday left an elderly man dead and seven people wounded, Palestinian medics said.
The Palestinians arrived at the crossing, which is rarely open, on Thursday morning, hoping to cross into Egypt. But the crowd quickly became chaotic, the medics said, and an elderly man on his way to a medical checkup in Egypt died in the crush of people. The exact circumstances of his death were unclear.
Abdel Hadi Salama, who was traveling to Egypt to visit relatives, said the Palestinian security personnel at the crossing rapidly lost control of the crowds, who began pushing toward the terminal and throwing stones at the entrance gate. Security men opened fire in the air, he said. Medics said two of the wounded were hit by gunfire.
"It's like the end of the world," Salama said, speaking by cell phone from inside the crossing terminal.
Jose Vericat, a spokesman for the European Union observers in charge of the crossing, said officials temporarily closed the terminal after the crush. "It was impossible for the Palestinian security personnel to keep control," Vericat said.
According to the EU observers, the Rafah crossing has only been open less than a fifth of the time since June 2006, when Palestinian terrorists kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Schalit in a cross-border raid, sparking an Israeli offensive in Gaza. The fact that the crossing is usually closed leads to massive crowds on the rare occasions it opens.
Israel withdrew its troops and settlers from the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2005. The Rafah crossing is essentially the only way out of the coastal strip for its 1.4 million residents.