Riots erupt in Egypt-Gaza border airport

Palestinians stuck at terminal for a month smash windows, clash with police.

July 17, 2007 13:46
1 minute read.
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About 100 Palestinians smashed doors and windows inside an airport building in the Egypt-Gaza Strip border town of el-Arish early Tuesday after being trapped there for more than a month since the border's closure, police and one of the rioters said. Dozens of anti-riot police with batons and shields stormed the el-Arish airport and clashed with rioters, injuring two of them, said one of the rioters, Muhammad Ali. A police official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that more troops have been deployed to the airport after Tuesday's clashes, fearing more riots and violence. The Palestinians, who do not have entry visas for Egypt, were transferred under security supervision to el-Arish airport after first arriving at the Cairo airport from trips abroad. They had expected to then travel onward to the Gaza Strip, but they have been stuck in the el-Arish airport since Egypt sealed off its border with Gaza after the Hamas takeover last month. The Palestinians, mostly students and government employees, trapped inside the airport have complained of increasingly desperate living conditions. "We are living in a 100 square meters. There are no services. Water is salty and masses of mosquitoes attack us every night," Ali said early Tuesday. "We have lost our minds. We broke the windows, the palm trees [inside the airport], the doors and everything around us in the airport," he added. Along with the 100 Palestinian in el-Arish airport, there are about 4,000 other Palestinians stranded on Egypt's side of the Gaza border. Egypt has said it is ruling out opening the border anytime soon, the official MENA news agency reported, a move intended to put pressure on Hamas to resolve its current conflict with Fatah. Egyptian officials are worried a Hamas-ruled Gaza on its borders could bolster Egypt's own banned Islamic opposition, the Muslim Brotherhood, and spawn terror attacks.

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