Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Egypt opens border with Gaza

Egypt today said it was opening its border into the territory for the delivery of humanitarian aid supplies.

There has been huge international pressure over Gaza recently after the flotilla, in response Egypt said it was opening its border into the territory for the delivery of humanitarian aid supplies.

News of the opening brought Gaza residents to the Rafah border post, their only route to the outside world other than crossings controlled by Israel. Egyptian security officials said it would be open from tomorrow until further notice.

Egypt, a close ally of the US and the recipient of $2bn (£1.3bn) annual aid – which is second only to Israel – is regularly attacked in the Arab world for effectively colluding with the Israeli blockade of Gaza. Critics openly accuse President Mubarak of "collaboration" with the enemy.

Normally, the Rafah crossing is open for a few days a month. Egyptian sources told Reuters only food and medical supplies would be allowed in. Construction materials including concrete and steel, urgently needed to repair the damage of last year's war, would still be banned. Rafah is the only point on Gaza's borders not controlled by Israel. Cairo, coordinating with Israel, has opened it only sparingly since Hamas seized control of Gaza three years ago.

Hani Aziz, adviser to the Egyptian foreign relations committee, said Mubarak's decision "underlined the fact that Egypt always stands on the side of the Palestinians". Palestinians and many Egyptians may not agree.

"Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has given orders to open the Rafah border crossing to allow humanitarian and medical aid into the Gaza Strip, as well as to receive medical cases which require access to Egyptian territory," said Egyptian news agency MENA. "This comes as part of Egypt's moves to ease the suffering of the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip."

Egypt has come under harsh regional criticism for keeping the border closed and for building an underground wall in a bid to curb smuggling, which it views as a security risk.

The World Bank estimates that 80 per cent of Gaza's imports are brought in through the tunnels. Most of the tunnels are used to bring in basic goods such as food, household appliances, building materials and livestock, but Hamas and other armed groups use their own more secret tunnels to smuggle in weapons and money.

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