Tue, Dec 30, 2008 - Page 6 News List

Palestinians fleeing strikes breach Egypt border fence

CATASTROPHE Palestinians detonated a land mine and commandeered a bulldozer to create more breaches in the wall. Hundreds of Egyptian guards were deployed


An Egyptian Red Crescent worker carries medical aid to be delivered to the Gaza Strip at the Rafah crossing point between Egypt and the Gaza Strip on Sunday. More than 300 Palestinians have been killed and 600 wounded since Israel launched air strikes in the Gaza Strip.


Palestinians fleeing Israeli air strikes breached the border fence with Egypt in several places and hundreds crossed, prompting clashes with Egyptian security that left a border guard dead, an Egyptian security official said.

Palestinian gunmen and border guards traded gunfire and an Egyptian major was shot twice in the stomach and killed, the security official said. Five other border guards were injured by Palestinian bullets and stones.

An eight-year-old Egyptian child was also wounded by a stray bullet.

Palestinian medical officials, for their part, said one Palestinian was shot dead by Egyptian security and four wounded.

Palestinians breached the border in four places along its 14km length, allowing hundreds of residents to pour into Egypt. Gunmen also briefly took control of several Egyptian checkpoints, added the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

The breach came shortly after Israeli aircraft struck the smuggling tunnels running underneath the border, targeting one of the lifelines of the territory’s Hamas rulers in part of a two-day campaign of air strikes against the Gaza Strip.

At least 300 Egyptian border guards have been rushed to the area to reseal the border, the Egyptian official added on condition on anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

About four hours later, an Egyptian security official in Cairo said most of the breaches were again under Egyptian control though sporadic clashes continued. The official said most of those who crossed into Egypt have returned to Gaza and security officers were combing the area for an estimated 200 infiltrators.

The brief episode was reminiscent of an earlier breach this year, when angry Gazans blew holes in the border fence and hundreds of thousands poured into Egypt.

The January breach lasted for a few days as Gazans stocked up on food stuffs and consumer goods. Egyptian security have since worked on fortifying their presence along the volatile border.

On Sunday, a witness on the Gaza side of the border, Fida Kishta, said residents detonated a land mine along the border and commandeered a bulldozer to create more breaches.

“There was a loud bang and then we saw the smoke, and then people began heading toward Egypt, we counted them in the hundreds. Everyone in the area started crossing through,” she said.

An official on the Egyptian side said the wall between Gaza and Egypt at the Barahmeh neighborhood was brought down during the airstrike and the subsequent large explosion from an underground fuel pipe.

He later said Palestinians and Egyptian security clashed heavily along the border. Tear gas was also used extensively by the Egyptian security, the official said, to keep people away from the breaches, keeping many Rafah residents indoors.

The official added that Egyptian security had pulled back ahead of the airstrikes.

Palestinians said two people were killed and 18 wounded in the air strikes and another five were wounded in the ensuing exchange of gunfire with Egyptian security.

Abdel Qader Higazi, a representative of the Egyptian Doctor’s Syndicate in Rafah, said Egyptian authorities closed the border crossing after allowing several shipments of medical supplies into Gaza.

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