Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Egypt's New Ruler Tightens Noose on Gaza

Palestinian tunnel workers rest inside a smuggling
tunnel dug beneath the Gaza-Egypt border in the
southern Gaza Strip on 27 August 2013.
(Photo: AFP - Said Khatib)
Egypt's New Ruler Tightens Noose on Gaza
Aug 28, 2013 |  |  Uruba Othman

Gaza – Every time a crisis befalls an Arab country, Gaza – being the weakest link – becomes a scapegoat. As Egypt falls deeper into crisis, the tighter the noose is tied on Gaza, especially now that the Egyptian leadership has accused the Palestinian government in Gaza of stirring up chaos in Egypt and harboring fugitive Muslim Brotherhood leaders.

Egyptian authorities control Gaza’s fate because they control the Strip’s one outlet to the outside world: the Rafah crossing. The gate at the Rafah crossing stands as an impenetrable bulwark in the face of a million and half human beings living in the Gaza Strip.

After ousting Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi, the Egyptian army tightened its control of the crossing. The army opens the crossing for a few hours before closing it again for long periods of time, or as they put it, “until further notice.” Closure of the Rafah crossing was announced last week under the pretext of escalating security tensions in Sinai after the killing of 27 Egyptian policemen.

The majority of ordinary people in Gaza could not care less whether the Brotherhood in Egypt is overthrown or not. They are preoccupied with their own survival.

At the gate of the Rafah crossing, an old woman stands with her hand pressed against her right cheek. The signs of exhaustion appear on her face as the boredom of endless waiting has clearly taken over. The stacked baggage of those waiting to cross is not going anywhere as their children are overwhelmed by sleep under the rays of the burning sun.

 Um Khaled Eslim, over 60, moans in pain. Stuck at the border for the fourth day in a row, she is hoping to feel a little bit better if the Egyptian authorities allow her to cross the border to receive treatment at one of Egypt’s hospitals. She tells Al-Akhbar, as she grasps her bag of medications, “They won’t let me in, and I am a sick woman. I need to be carried around, and I use a cane. Our money has run out.”

She wondered: “I would just like to know, why does Egypt punish all Palestinians and consider them supporters of Hamas and Morsi? I swear we have nothing to do with them, yet we won’t get to leave the crossing today, we will sleep here.”

She is not the only one complaining about the humiliating and degrading treatment that Palestinians receive at the hands of the Egyptian authorities at the Rafah crossing. Dima Abu Hamdeh is a Palestinian student studying dentistry at the Kasr al-Ainy School of Medicine in Cairo. She has to pay for transportation from Gaza City to the Rafah crossing on an almost daily basis, despite a fuel shortage. Abu Hamdeh is under stress, fearing that she will sacrifice the whole academic year if the situation at the crossing doesn’t change.

Adel Ghannam is an engineer and a family man. He insists on reserving a seat on one of the buses that is supposed to leave the Gaza Strip if Egypt opens the crossing. All he can think about is his job in Abu Dhabi. He tells Al-Akhbar, “My flight was last night at 11 pm. I was supposed to be at work today, but I am not because of the closure at the crossing.” He confessed going through moments of deep anxiety as he fears losing his only source of income if his employer replaces him.

In addition, the Rafah crossing has indirectly ripped off many Palestinians. Ibtisam Abu Nada lost her travel ticket for the third time in a row. She says: “We are crushed at the crossing like a bag of tomatoes. Every day we have to pay 200 shekels ($55), and now we don’t know where to get the money from. Egypt should compensate us for all these losses. And I would like to know, why do Egyptians only close their border with Gaza and leave their borders with Sudan and Libya open. Aren’t we human beings or what?”

In the past few days, only 59 people have been able to leave the Gaza Strip after the Egyptian army decided to use force on Morsi’s supporters.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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