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Palestine | International

Gaza scrambles for supplies as border forced open
by via the Electronic Intifada
Friday Jan 25th, 2008 7:40 AM
Friday, January 25, 2008 :Three kids, their mother and their aunt hurried towards the Salah al-Din gate in southern Gaza on Wednesday. The mother, in her early thirties, explained in a rush, "We are heading to al-Arish [the Egypt border town] to follow my mom and brother who entered today after the borders were reopened." The family was not alone; thousands of other Palestinians thronged nearby, on their way to al-Arish, following the blasting through of the Israeli-built steel walls by Palestinian resistance fighters earlier that day.
Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians poured from Gaza into Egypt's Sinai peninsula, breathing a collective sigh of relief following a half-year of Israeli closure of all Gaza border crossings.

Those returning to Gaza carried everything from food to livestock. Other Gazans were carrying on their shoulders boxes of another precious commodity in besieged Gaza -- cigarettes -- the price of which has at least doubled over the past several months.

"We are bringing cigarettes because its cheaper in Egypt," said one such individual.

The Rafah crossing terminal -- the main point of entry into Gaza from Egypt -- has been permanently closed since June 2007. On 19 September 2007 Israel declared Gaza an "enemy entity" and began imposing an additional series of collective punishment measures against the population, including sharp reductions of imports, ostensibly in reaction to the firing of homemade rockets from Gaza. However, Israeli public figures have repeatedly stated that the intent of the siege is to put pressure on the civilian population and erode popular support of the elected Hamas government which took control of the Strip this summer.

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§Down goes the wall
by via the Electronic Intifada Friday Jan 25th, 2008 7:38 AM
Friday, January 25, 2008 :Last night I received a text message from my dear friend Fida: "It's coming down -- it's coming down!" she declared ecstatically. "Laila! The Palestinians destroyed [the] Rafah wall, all of it. All of it not part of it! Your sister, Fida." More texts followed, as I received periodical updates on the situation in Rafah, where it was 3am.

"Two hours ago people were praising God everywhere. The metal wall was cut and destroyed. So was the cement one. It is great, Laila, it is great," she declared.

For the first time in months, I sensed a degree of enthusiasm, hope ... relief even, emanating thousands of miles away, via digitized words, from Gaza. Words that have been all but absent from the Palestinian vocabulary. Buried. Methodically and gradually destroyed.

Of course, the border opening will only provide temporary relief. The ecstasy it generates will be fleeting, as it was in 2005 when shortly after Israel's disengagement, the once impervious and deadly sniper-lined border became completely porous. It was an incredible time. I will never forget the feeling of standing in the middle of the Philadelphi corridor, as it was known.

The feeling of standing there with hundreds of thousands of other Gazans, savoring the moment of uninterrupted freedom, in this case, freedom of movement. Goats were being lobbed over the secondary fence, mattresses, cigarettes, cheeses. Egyptians took back bags of apples from northern Gaza, and comforters. For two weeks, it was the free market at work.

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