Rafah protest passes off peacefully

Egyptians dispatch some 700 border guards to terminal to foil any attempt to infiltrate border.

Rafah guard 224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Rafah guard 224.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Hundreds of Hamas supporters demonstrated Sunday at the Rafah border crossing in protest against the continued closure of the terminal. The demonstrators called on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to reopen the terminal and condemned the Arab countries for failing to work toward lifting the blockade that was imposed on the Gaza Strip more than a year ago. Egypt dispatched about 700 border guards to the Egyptian side of the terminal to foil any attempt by the protesters to infiltrate. The tough security measures, as well as warnings by top Egyptian government officials, apparently deterred the Hamas supporters from breaching the border. Sources close to Hamas said over the weekend that the movement was planning to call on its supporters to storm the Rafah border crossing to embarrass the Egyptians and force them to reopen it. Addressing the demonstrators, Ahmed Bahr, acting speaker of the Hamas-dominated Palestinian Legislative Council criticized the Egyptians for refusing to reopen the border. He reminded President Mubarak of his earlier statement that Egypt would not allow the Palestinians to starve. Bahr also lashed out at the Egyptian authorities for refusing to allow a senior Hamas delegation to travel to a number of Arab countries through the Rafah terminal. "A few days ago we received an invitation from Arab parliamentarians to travel to Arab countries, but we were surprised when the Egyptian authorities refused to give us permission to leave the Gaza Strip," he said. Egypt, he added, no longer has an excuse to keep the border closed, particularly since Palestinian patients were dying every day due to the lack of adequate medical treatment. Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said Sunday's demonstration was aimed at reflecting the state of anger and frustration in the Gaza Strip against the continued closure of the border. "Today we wanted to send a message to the Egyptian and Arab leaderships about the need to end the siege against 1.5 million Palestinians," he said. "Those who are refusing to lift the siege are actually taking part in the siege against the Palestinians."