Saturday, June 4, 2011

Trouble at Rafah

When I first heard that Egypt was 'opening' the Rafah border crossing with Gaza, I assumed that would last a few weeks, then there would be trouble, and the gates would be quietly closed again.

Today, Gazans stormed the gate, as Egyptian troops and Hamas fighters struggled to keep control. A couple of notes on CNN's take on this:

First, CNN writes: The Rafah Crossing had been subject to frequent closures by Egypt after the Islamic militant group Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007.

The closure of the border had been part of an embargo policy by Egypt and Israel aimed at cutting off Hamas, but the embargo created an economic hardship on the Palestinian territory by limiting shipments of goods in and out of the country.

I'll have to check on this, because I may simply be fooling myself, but I have an idea that this sort of language 'closures by Egypt', 'an embargo policy by Egypt and Israel' were not commonly used until after the fall of the Mubarak regime, when the excuse that somehow Egypt was just doing this on Israel's behalf could no longer be used. I may malign the press. I'll try to check into this.

Secondly, CNN states that (i)t is the first kink in cross-border travel after Egypt reopened the crossing with Gaza last week, a symbolic move that signaled the Cairo government's greater support of Palestinian aspirations.

However, even before this, border control was going to remain tight:

The rulings indicate that women, children and men under 18 and over 40 years of age are permitted free passage from Gaza to Egypt; men under 40 will be required to apply for a visa which must be granted by the authorities for entry. A great majority of Gaza's population is under 40. According to a Palestinian official, a total of 23 people were turned away due to Egyptian security concerns. It was expected that by day's end, 1000 Gazans will have left to cross into Egypt.

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