Thursday, 31 December 2009

Ignoring 1.5 Million Besieged Gazans, Egypt Authorities’ Main Concern Is Shalit!

Hanan Awarekeh 

30/12/2009 Forgetting or pretending to forget that there are over 11,000 Palestinian detainees in the Israeli prisons without mentioning that there are more than 1.5 million Gazans living in a big jail, Egyptian authorities seem to be concerned about one Israeli occupation soldier captured by the Palestinian resistance fighters!

Egyptian newspaper Al Masry al Youm quoted a source as saying that the emerging deal for Gilad Shalit’s release between Israel and Hamas is indeed a comprehensive one that would not only bring the captured Israeli occupation soldier home, but would also grant a normal life to Gaza's 1.5 million inhabitants.

Perhaps this was one of the things Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak discussed at their meeting Tuesday.

An Israeli government source insisted that "there is no connection between the issues," adding that he does not understand "on what basis the Egyptian Foreign Ministry says such things."

However, this is the first time Egypt has presented its two conditions for opening the border crossings and has linked the Shalit deal to the Palestinian reconciliation agreement. Though Israel has not publicly committed itself to lifting the blockade if Shalit is released, it appears that international pressure will not let it continue the closure. And practically speaking, there would no longer be any point to doing so: If Egypt decides to open its border with the Gaza Strip following the Shalit deal, Israel might not be able to prevent it.

Meanwhile, Egypt is suffering severe Arab criticism for having decided to put up a steel fence along its border with Gaza in order to prevent smuggling through the cross-border tunnels. Citizens in both parts of Rafah complain that fuel prices have already risen significantly and that without the tunnels, Gaza will suffer a serious shortage of fuel for heating during the winter.

The steel fence, or what Palestinians call "fence of death", was a reference to the huge steel wall currently under construction by Egyptian workers and supervised by US and French officials in order to enforce a more efficient isolation of the Gaza Strip population. The Palestinian Information Centre reported on details obtained from sources in Cairo saying that the death wall is conceived to function as a water-leaking system, by which existing tunnels will be flooded and anyone trying to build new tunnels would be drowned.

According to the report, on the Palestinian side of the steel wall holes will be dug, into which 20 to 30 meters long pipes would be inserted vertically and at a distance of 30 to 40 meters one from another; these pipes would be connected through a 10 km-long horizontal main pipeline, from which sea water would be poured into them. The pipes, equipped with holes, would then release the sea water into the soil causing existing tunnels to collapse and preventing new ones to be dug.

The comb-shaped pipe system would also destroy the soil on the Palestinian side of the steel wall, which would contemporaneously prevent the salty water from soaking Egyptian territory.

Some of the critics equate Egypt with Israel and accuse it of collaborating with "the Zionist state" against Gaza.

Last week, Egypt gave its critics additional cause for complaint by not allowing an aid convoy led by British MP George Galloway to enter Egypt through the Nuweiba port on the Gulf of Aqaba. The convoy, initially comprising about 70 trucks, went through Europe to Turkey, where it picked up several dozen more trucks, and thence to Syria and Jordan. From Jordan, the organizers wanted to cross into Sinai and continue to Gaza. But Egypt said the convoy could come in only through the Mediterranean port of Al Arish.

Galloway saw this as further Egyptian harassment of Gaza's residents and expressed his opinion of it in a letter to the Egyptian president. But Egypt was unmoved. Aid or no aid, "no convoy is going to dictate Egypt's decision on this matter," a Foreign Ministry spokesman asserted.

Turkey then stepped in and offered to mediate. The outcome is that while the convoy will indeed not enter via Nuweiba, it will be able to go back through Syria and from there to Al Arish, where Egypt has undertaken to allow it in without difficulties.

River to Sea
 Uprooted Palestinian

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