Wednesday, January 30, 2008

From the BBC : Gaza

Shopping and shooting on Gaza's border
With thousands of Palestinians attempting to cross from Gaza into Egypt, or back again, and Egyptian troops trying to stop them, BBC correspondents on either side of the breached frontier say the scene is at turns tense and bizarre.


Here on the Palestinian side of the border, the deadline for the border closing has passed.

Egyptian troops confront Palestinians on the border with Gaza
Tensions have risen, with Egyptian troops trying to force Gazans back

But Palestinians are still coming and going into Egypt. They are crossing through many of the gaps in the border fence.

An hour ago, it was very tense. There were lots of masked gunmen on the Gaza side of the border. There was some gunfire but it wasn't clear from what side.

Earlier, the Egyptians used a water cannon and sprayed the crowd. There was a lot of pushing and shoving. Some of the Egyptians used batons to hit the crowd.

The Egyptians soldiers then stood, shoulder to shoulder, and inched towards the border, pushing the Palestinians back into Gaza.

A bulldozer driven by a Palestinian entered no man's land and started opening a hole again in the border.

As it approached sunset, it appeared that the Egyptian forces were giving up for the day.

People are still moving back and forth - some with mattresses on their heads, others carrying fuel and food.

The Palestinians here are saying that it's a demonstration of people power.

They say that, despite Egypt wishes, they have kept the border open for another day.


Here on the Egyptian side of the border, thousands of Palestinians are now streaming back across into Gaza - mainly men, but also some families.

Earlier in the day, megaphones in Egypt announced that the border would be closing today.

A woman carries goods from Egypt across the border with Gaza
Many Gazans have tried to stock up with goods during the border breach

Palestinians have been buying anything they can lay their hands on in the last few hours of this bumper Gaza-style shopping spree.

Three camels are being herded back into Gaza, people are also carrying bags of cement, computers tucked under their arms, and white plastic chairs.

Many Palestinians have spoken about their sense of freedom in the last few days.

But the mood here keeps fluctuating between periods of calm and then violence.

At times there have been clashes between large of groups of Palestinians, caught on the Gaza side of the border, and Egyptian security forces.

Stones have been thrown from both sides and gunshots have been fired.

The Egyptian troops are wielding batons to march some people back into Gaza.

Many Palestinians here are angry. The closure goes against an Egyptian government promise not to shut the border.

But the Egyptian government is unwilling to negotiate with Hamas, so it was left with very few options to regain control of the border.