CAIRO: A temporary calm has descended on Rafah and the Egypt-Gaza border following the breach, but the situation remains potentially explosive as the parties involved insist on their own vision concerning the future of the border.
Violent breaches of the border wall in last month had allowed hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to enter the Egyptian side of Rafah after a total Israeli blockade had crippled Gaza.
The fallout of these events continue as Egyptian security forces search for Palestinians who have remained on the Egyptian side even after the breaches had been sealed up and the Rafah border crossing was closed.
North Sinai Tagmmu party member Hussein El Qayem told Daily News Egypt that calm has settled in the area, but Egyptian forces are still looking for Palestinians in Rafah to return them to Gaza.
“There is an unknown factor though, El Qayem said, “will there be another breach? Will the border crossing be opened? Egyptians are reinforcing security and building a greater wall in the area.
Hamas is agitating for the reopening of the Rafah border crossing, closed since they assumed power in Gaza last June. Egypt prefers that the Palestinian Authority (PA) guard the crossing; the US concurs, and is trying to persuade Israel to follow suit.
“We predict that Hamas will intensify rocket attacks on Southern Israel to force the crossing issue and force Egypt to open it for Gazans, El Qayem said.
Assistant US Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Welch visited Egypt, Israel and the PA last week and in his meetings with Israel urged them to accept Fatah control of the Rafah border crossing, as well as Egyptian wishes to add another 750 troops to the 750 currently deployed to man the border.
Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit attracted Palestinian criticism recently when he stated that any Palestinian from Gaza trying to enter Egypt illegally would have his legs broken.
Egypt did temporarily open the crossing on Monday to allow 54 foreigners to return from the Gaza strip having entered when the breaches were in full effect. The group was comprised of a Bahraini humanitarian delegation led by an MP as well as 35 Jordanians, two Americans, two Britons, a Kazakh and a Ukranian.
When Mohamed Abou Trika scored the winning goal in the African Nations Cup final there were wild celebrations in Gaza and gun shots were fired in the air.
These celebrations – while a response to Abou Trika brandishing a shirt promoting sympathy with Gaza earlier in the tournament – are also an indication of a direction many people fear, which is to make Gaza Egypt’s responsibility, and in the extreme cases, part of Egypt.
El Qayem said, “The people of Gaza say we are Egyptians and want to be ruled by Egypt, like the people of the West Bank say they want to be ruled by Jordan, and this way the Palestinian cause is lost.
This is because “Palestinians are tired of the lies of the resistance, where they make promises till they reach power and then enjoy the wealth. And the economic conditions have taken their toll, as well as the number of deaths. Every Palestinian family has one or two martyrs, El Qayem added.
Indeed at one point there were mutterings that Gazans would seek Egyptian citizenship, a point which did not go down well when violent clashes erupted during the border breaches.
El Qayem said, “The media [in Egypt] has been twisted, Egypt has managed to convey the message that ‘we fed them and they fired at us’ when it was the Egyptian border guards who opened fire and killed some amongst them.
“The future is vague; there are still many things to be determined, he added.