soldiers kerem shalom.
(photo credit: AP [file])
Hamas's threat to open fire at throngs of Palestinians stranded in Egypt has thwarted Israeli plans to open the Kerem Shalom crossing to southern Gaza on Wednesday to let the travelers return to their homes, defense officials told The Jerusalem Post.
According to the officials, 6,000 Palestinians have been marooned on the Egyptian side of Rafah since Hamas's violent takeover of the Gaza Strip three weeks ago and the closure of the Rafah crossing into Egypt. Palestinians shelled the crossing last week, forcing its closure after it had been used as an alternative to the Karni cargo crossing to send food and other supplies into Gaza.
During his meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak at the Sharm e-Sheikh summit last week, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said he would work to relieve the humanitarian crisis on the Egyptian side of Rafah.
In an effort to allow the stranded Palestinians to return home, the IDF recently offered to Egypt to open the Kerem Shalom crossing - which connects Israel, Gaza and Egypt - to pedestrian travel. Egypt contacted Hamas and, according to Israeli officials, was told that if Kerem Shalom was opened they would attack the crossing with mortars and gunfire, even at the price of killing thousands of Palestinians.
Israel immediately canceled the plans and is waiting to see if Egypt succeeds in convincing Hamas to allow Kerem Shalom to be used to help the stranded Palestinians.