Egypt saying that Israel's isolation of Gaza has not accomplished jack shit.
- From: GLOBALIST <free.tuneup@xxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Mon, 7 Jun 2010 10:12:09 -0700 (PDT)
By SARAH EL DEEB, Associated Press Writer – 16 mins ago
SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt – An Egyptian security official declared the
blockade of Gaza a failure Monday and said his country will keep its
border with the Palestinian territory open indefinitely.
Keeping that crossing point open long term would ease the blockade
imposed by Israel three years ago to isolate and punish Gaza's Hamas
rulers. It also restores a link to the outside the world for some of
Gaza's 1.5 million Palestinians.
Egypt opened its border with Gaza soon after Israel's deadly raid on
an international flotilla of activists trying to break the blockade a
week ago. Israel has not publicly protested the Egyptian move, but
officials declined to comment Monday.
In another escalation of the tension off Gaza's shores, Israeli naval
forces shot and killed four men wearing wet suits off the coast on
Monday, and the militant group Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades said they
were members of its marine unit training for a mission.
Vice President Joe Biden said Monday the U.S. is closely consulting
with Egypt and other allies to find new ways to "address the
humanitarian, economic, security, and political aspects of the
situation in Gaza." He issued the statement after meeting Egyptian
President Hosni Mubarak in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm El-
Egypt's measures up to now constitute an incremental change rather
than a radically different approach to the border closure. It appeared
aimed, in part, at defusing some of the anger in the Arab and Muslim
world over Egypt's role in maintaining the blockade.
For the time being, Egypt is only allowing a very restricted group of
Gazans to leave the territory, including medical patients and those
with residency abroad. In keeping the passenger terminal in the border
town of Rafah open continually, rather than sporadically as before,
Egypt is helping reduce the backlog of Gazans with the required
permits waiting to get out.
Egypt and Israel have maintained the blockade since Hamas took control
of Gaza in 2007, with Israel describing it as an essential measure to
stop weapons from reaching Hamas militants, who have hit southern
Israel with rockets and in past years killed hundreds in suicide
The Egyptian security official said, however, that the closure has
failed to achieve its goals, including the release of an Israeli
soldier held by Hamas since 2006. Israeli airstrikes and Egyptian
security efforts have also yet to choke off a bustling smuggling trade
that uses hundreds of tunnels along the Gaza-Egypt border, though the
official said Egypt is determined to shut them down.
Under the restrictions at the Rafah crossing point, Egypt is letting
in some humanitarian aid but will not transfer large cargo shipments
or construction material because the terminal is designed primarily as
a crossing for travelers, said the Egyptian official, who spoke on
condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
For its part, Israel allows through only basic humanitarian goods,
blocking crucial items like cement needed to rebuild war damage
because it argues the material could be used by Hamas. The closure has
crushed Gaza's already fragile economy.
The Egyptian official said Israel must work out a new policy to end
the suffering of the Palestinians while keeping pressure on Hamas.
Like Israel, Egypt also fears sharing a border with a slice of
territory controlled by Islamic militants backed by regional rival
Iran. Concerned about the flow of weapons, Egypt late last year began
building an underground, metal barrier to seal the smuggling tunnels.
"We have a constant security concern, because Iran has its aims,
Hezbollah has its aims, Hamas has its aspirations and aims, and al-
Qaida can very well be present in Sinai and Gaza," the official said.
Egypt has been harshly criticized in the Muslim world for having
helped maintain the blockade.
The official called it a "continuously embarrassing situation" for
Egypt and blamed Israel for thinking the closure could pressure Hamas
to release the captured soldier, Gilad Schalit, or to abandon its
In Monday's clash, the Israeli military said a naval force spotted the
Palestinians in the waters off Gaza and opened fire. It claimed the
forces had prevented an attack on Israeli targets.
Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades said the four killed were training in Gaza's
waters. The violent offshoot of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas'
Fatah faction, made the claim in a text message sent to reporters in
Four bodies were retrieved and taken to a hospital in central Gaza,
said Moawiya Hassanain, a Palestinian health official. The Palestinian
naval police said two people were still missing.
"The bloody escalation today is a desperate attempt by the occupation
government to divert the world attention away from the massacre
committed against the flotilla," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told
reporters in Gaza.
The May 31 flotilla clash, in which eight Turkish men and one dual
American-Turkish citizen were killed aboard one of the vessels seized
by Israeli commandos, has put Israel under international pressure to
lift or at least ease the blockade.
The killings seriously damaged Israel's relations with Turkey, which
had been its closest ally in the Muslim world. In Istanbul, a 20-
member Asian security group kicked off a summit with Turkey seeking to
condemn Israel for the raid.
Israel has sought to portray the nine activists killed as militants,
saying they prepared for the fight before boarding the flotilla. The
military Monday released the names of five of the activists it said
have long-standing ties to terror organizations.
"The state of Israel is under attack," Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu told lawmakers in his Likud party. He said the attack was a
"direct continuation" of international condemnations of Israel's war
against Hezbollah guerrillas in 2006 and last year's military
offensive against Hamas in Gaza.
Associated Press Writers Aron Heller in Jerusalem, Ibrahim Barzak in
Gaza City, Gaza Strip, and Selcan Hacaoglu in Istanbul, Turkey,
contributed to this report.
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