Hamas rally at Rafah crossing

Protesters demand that border be kept open while Egypt seeks to seal breaches.

     Palestinians had flooded into Egypt through Rafah
    to shop and meet relatives 

    Some of them jumped over metal barriers into Egypt, raising Hamas flags on the Egyptian side. Dozens of Egyptian border guards watched the scene, but did not intervene.

    Al Jazeera's Jacky Rowland, reporting from Rafah, said that Hamas staged Friday's rally "to remind people that while they may have broken the siege in the south, Gaza is still very much blockaded by Israel from the north and east".

    Border breach

    Gaza's Hamas rulers want a role in running the border with Egypt, a demand rejected this week by Egypt and Abbas.

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    It remains unclear whether Hamas will use force to keep the border open.

    The Egypt-Hamas standoff began on January 23, when Hamas-allied fighters toppled the border wall with a series of explosions.

    Since then, Hamas-led armed men have stopped several attempts by Egypt to reseal the frontier.

    The border breach came several days after Israel had imposed a complete blockade on Gaza, with Egyptian backing, in response to a rocket barrage from Gaza on Israeli border towns.

    Ismail Haniya of the Hamas has meanwhile said the group would not allow the border to be resealed.

    "The Palestinian people have many options," Haniya was quoted as telling the pro-Hamas daily Palestine in an interview on Friday.

    Restricted access

    For the past seven months, since Hamas' takeover of Gaza, Israel and Egypt have severely restricted access to the territory.

    Egypt and Abbas have proposed returning to an internationally backed arrangement for the Gaza-Egypt border that would shut out Hamas, but grant Israel the final say over operations there.

    Haniya says Hamas will not allow the
    Rafah border to be resealed


    The arrangement was negotiated in 2005, after Israel's pullout from Gaza. However, the border has been closed for long stretches since then, including in response to the Hamas takeover.

    Meanwhile, Egyptian guards have closed more openings in the 12-kilometre-long border.

    They poured cement to fill gaps in a low wall, and laid metal spikes on the ground to narrow the largest remaining passage.

    Motorists stopped crossing, but a few Gazans on foot or riding donkey carts trickled into Egypt.

    Since the border breach, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have rushed into Egypt, shopping and visiting relatives on the other side.

    Most have returned to Gaza after brief visits to Egyptian towns along the shared border. 

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and Agencies


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