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Egypt Tries to Restore Order on Gaza Border


The situation on the border between Egypt and the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip remains chaotic, a day after Palestinian militants blew up the border wall. As Robert Berger reports from VOA's Jerusalem bureau, Israel and Egypt are locked in a new tug of war over who is responsible for the impoverished territory.

Egyptian riot police tried to restore order, but thousands of Palestinians continued to cross from Gaza into Egypt over the broken down border fence a day after they escaped the Israeli siege.

Police wearing helmets and wielding batons pounded on the hoods of Palestinian cars, preventing them from traveling further into Egyptian territory.

Palestinians are stocking up on everything, from food to fuel to cement. All have been in short supply due to Israeli sanctions against the ruling Islamic militant group Hamas. Shortages intensified last week after Israel shut its borders in response to Palestinian rocket attacks.

Now that the Palestinians are getting supplies from Egypt, Israel wants to sever ties with Gaza altogether. Israeli spokesman Arieh Mekel.

"We expect the Egyptians to solve the problem," he said.

Egypt rejects the idea. Responsibility for 1.5 million Palestinians would be an economic burden, and Egypt's government fears that open borders with the Hamas-ruled area could strengthen its own Islamic fundamentalists who oppose the pro-western regime in Cairo.

Hamas says Israel is responsible for Gaza since it is the occupying power. Hamas official Ahmed Yousef warned Israel against continuing its blockade of Gaza, saying next time, the Palestinians could storm the Jewish state.

"This is not just imagination, [but] something I can predict that could happen in the future, you can face half million Palestinians taking all kinds of risks to cross to Israel," he said.

Israel sees the new situation on the Egyptian border as a way to complete its so-called "disengagement" of 2005, when it pulled all soldiers and settlers out of Gaza. But Egypt and the Palestinians may not be prepared to let Israel off the hook.