CAIRO: Dozens were injured as Egyptian forces opened fire on hundreds of Palestinian protestors trying to break through the Rafah border crossing in two separate incidents Tuesday.
Fifty women managed to push through into the Egyptian side of the terminal but were held there as Egyptian security forces held talks with Hamas.
More Palestinian attempts to storm the Egyptian border are planned, according to sources in Gaza.
Around 400 Palestinians, mainly women and children, attempted to storm through the Rafah border crossing and were prevented by Egyptian guards who used water cannons and fired in the air to disperse the crowd.
Further injuries were sustained throughout the day as protesters pushed through the crossing. Shots were fired across the border, with Palestinian gunmen firing into the air as the police cordon broke up.
Injured protestors were transported back to Gaza in ambulances.
The number of those injured was as high as 10 Egyptian police and about 60 protesters.
Egypt called on Hamas to urge residents of the Gaza Strip to avoid further unrest. Foreign ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki expressed Egypt’s “deep regret at the events witnessed at the Rafah border crossing.
Egypt “asks those in control of the Gaza Strip to work to avoid the repetition of such a situation, he said.
Early on Tuesday, thousands of Palestinian women congregated near the border agitating for the reopening of the Rafah border crossing to alleviate the complete blockade imposed on Gaza since last Thursday by Israel.
Israel had partially lifted its five-day blockade when it allowed the European Union (EU) to bring in a week’s worth of industrial fuel Tuesday for Gaza’s main power plant which had been closed since Sunday, leaving the strip in virtual darkness.
Secretary of Organization at the Tagammu party in North Sinai Alaa Al Kashef told Daily News Egypt that sources in Gaza informed him that more attempts were planned to storm the border.
“Hamas and other Palestinian groups in Gaza are planning more attempts in the next few days, he said. “There will be more attempts as long as there is a blockade.
According to Al Kashef, “Attempts will be aimed at the Rafah crossing but there may be further attempts along other parts of the border, which is undermanned because of the peace agreement with Israel.
The number of guards Egypt may deploy at the border is limited by an armistice agreement reached after the 1973 war.
Israel closed off all crossing points leading into the territory last Thursday to curb rocket attacks into southern towns. Until yesterday, they had refused to allow fuel shipments through, leaving Gaza in a blackout.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice voiced US concerns over the five-day Israeli blockade. Speaking to reporters traveling with her to Berlin for a meeting to discuss Iran, Rice said, “Nobody wants innocent Gazans to suffer, and so we have spoken to the Israelis about the importance of not allowing a humanitarian crisis to unfold there.
The EU and international agencies have decried the blockade, labelling it illegal and a collective punishment against the 1.5 million residents of Gaza.
The UN Security Council met in an emergency session Tuesday morning at the behest of Arab member states and US ambassador to the UN Zalmay Khalilzad said that while Israel had the right to defend itself, it needed “to take the impact on the civilians into account.
Egypt deployed 300 additional troops Monday to secure the Gaza border after receiving warnings that blockaded Palestinians might attempt to storm into the country.
The Rafah crossing has been closed since June 2007. -With agencies