CAIRO: The breaches in the Egypt-Gaza border were finally sealed on Sunday, bringing an end to the two-week influx of Palestinians into Rafah and Al-Arish to shop for goods not available in Gaza.
With aid from members of Hamas – who arrested Palestinians throwing stones – Egyptian security forces closed the numerous breaches in the border wall that had been blown open by Hamas, allowing hundreds of thousands of Gazans to pour through.
On Sunday only one gate remained open to allow the reverse migration of Palestinians from the Egypt side of the border to Gaza, and Egyptians in Gaza to return to Rafah.
Presidential spokesman Suleiman Awad told MENA that this would be the last time something like this happens.
“Egypt absolutely will not allow a repeat of what happened because it has a border, territory and sovereignty, and it is Egypt’s right and duty to preserve that, he said.
North Sinai Tagammu party member Ahsraf El Hefny told Daily News Egypt that despite a late night attempt to counter efforts to reseal the border, there were no more Palestinians in Al-Arish and Sheikh Zowayed and very few remaining in Rafah.
However, El Hefny added that local residents were now suffering from a shortage of basic commodities as authorities had prevented supply trucks from crossing the Mubarak Peace bridge leading to the area.
Egypt had squeezed the supply route to force Palestinians to return to Gaza as they could no longer find what they had come in for.
Meanwhile on Sunday European Union (EU) foreign policy chief Javier Solana arrived in Cairo for a two-day visit to discuss the latest Palestinian developments with Egyptian officials.
Solana will hold talks with foreign minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit, intelligence chief Omar Suleiman as well as head of the Arab League Amr Moussa.
Solana offered EU assistance to the border issue as he urged both the Palestinians and Israelis to cooperate to reopen the Rafah border crossing for humanitarian reasons.
Solana told MENA that the Israeli blockade which initially caused the border breach, had contributed to the misery of the Palestinians and that it was up to the two sides to solve this issue.
Meanwhile Hamas launched a staunch criticism of both Solana and Quartet envoy Tony Blair for “leading a conspiracy to keep the Rafah border crossing closed.
Subject to an earlier agreement, the crossing can only be opened with the presence of EU monitors at the site.
Hamas spokesman Samir Abu Zuhri said Solana’s visit and Blair’s subsequent visit to the region was “a new plot to keep the blockade on the Gaza Strip, [therefore] cutting the road before Hamas’ attempts to reopen the Rafah crossing with new arrangements bypassing the Israeli occupation’s intervention in monitoring the crossing.