After nearly three weeks of border closure between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, in which at least eight Palestinians waiting there have died from heat exposure, a group of Palestinian resistance fighters attempted to re-open the border crossing by force Thursday afternoon. They were stopped by the Palestinian Authority’s Presidential Guard.
Thousands of Palestinians have been waiting for weeks at the border crossing with no shelter and an inadequate water supply, many of them lying on the asphalt in the desert sun. Several of those who died were returning to Gaza from Egypt after surgery or other medical treatment in Egyptian hospitals. An elderly man and a baby have also died.
The border was closed by Israeli authorities on June 25th, after a Palestinian attack on an Israeli military base, and the capture of one Israeli soldier, resulted in a massive Israeli invasion into the Gaza Strip from all directions.
The Red Cross has proposed escorting the stranded Palestinians into Gaza by boat from el-Arish along the Egyptian coast but it has yet to receive a response from either side.
Bana Sayeh, a spokeswoman for the Red Cross in Jerusalem, said on Monday that a total of 578 people were now stranded inside the terminal on the Egyptian side of the crossing, with thousands of others outside.
"They can’t cross into Gaza or back into Egypt," Sayeh said.
And Karen Abu Zuhri, the director of the United Nations Refugee Works Agency in Gaza, said in an interview with the IMEMC, "According to our count, there are 578 people inside the terminal. 132 of these are people who had gone to Egypt for medical treatment. They’ve gotten into the terminal and now they can’t get back out. Our staff who are outside the terminal on the Egyptian side are working with the Egyptian Red Crescent Society to try to get some food and water to the people stuck inside, but it’s a very difficult situation."
The Palestinian Authority technically controls the Rafah crossing but its operations are overseen by European monitors and can be blocked by the Israelis. Egypt will not allow Palestinians who are trapped at the border back into Egypt.