"They will not allow the Palestinians past the town, and are forcing them to go back to Rafah."
 
Gaza pressure 'to remain'

Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, has said he will not ease his country's grip on Gaza.
 
He said: "We will continue to strike at the leaders of terror in the Gaza Strip, even at the cost of the quality of life of its residents."

"We will not prevent food for children, medication for those who need it and fuel for the institutions that are involved in the saving of human lives.
 
"But there is no justification to demand that we allow residents of the Gaza Strip to live a normal life at a time when from their streets rockets and shells are fired into Sderot and other communities in the south."
 
Palestinian fighters set off at least 15 explosions at the wall running through Rafah separating the two territories before dawn on Wednesday, Hamas security forces said.
 
Human traffic
 
The Egyptian security forces later closed most holes, but left two open to allow the flow of human traffic.
 
Meanwhile, Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, later said he had ordered his troops to allow Palestinians to cross into Egypt because they were starving.

 

"I told them to let them come in and eat and buy food and then return them later as long as they were not carrying weapons," he said.

 

The move came after Egyptian troops had fired in the air and used batons and water canons to beat back Gazans trying to push through the previous day.
 
The response drew drawn angry protests and complaints that Gaza was under siege not just from Israel but also by neighbouring Arab countries.
 
Shopping spree
 
Palestinians were also told by the Hamas leadership in Gaza that they should respect Egyptian security forces, get what they need, and return to Gaza, El-Kahky said.
 
Al Jazeera's Samir Omar said all shops in Rafah were open to enable Palestinians to buy food and medicines.
 
Egypt says they will not allow the
Palestinians to 'starve' [AFP
]
Witnesses said some Palestinians were only seeking to stock up on necessities, but others might stay longer in Rafah to meet relatives stranded in Arish.
 
On foot, in cars or riding donkey carts, the Palestinians went on a massive shopping spree, buying cigarettes, plastic bottles of fuel, and other items that have become scarce and expensive.

But Israel expressed concern that fighters and weapons might also be entering Gaza amid the chaos, and said responsibility for restoring order lay with Egypt.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies