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24 Jan 2008 09:49
Gazans poured into Egypt for a second consecutive day on Thursday to stock up on supplies after militants blew open the border barrier of the Hamas-run territory, witnesses said.
Hundreds of people continued to cross the border, most of them intent on buying goods on the Egyptian side a week after Israel imposed a blockade on the impoverished, densely populated territory.
Since militants set off explosions bringing down several stretches of the wall that marks the border between Gaza and Egypt in the divided town of Rafah on Tuesday night, tens of thousands of Gazans have flooded out, taking advantage of the rare opportunity to leave the coastal strip unhindered.
Shelves in numerous stores on the Egyptian side of the town of Rafah and in al-Arish further west have emptied because of the unexpected influx, witnesses said.
Israel has progressively tightened restrictions on movement in and out of Gaza since June 2006, after militants from the territory seized an Israeli soldier in a deadly cross-border raid.
Since then the Rafah border crossing—Gaza’s only one that bypasses Israel—has been closed almost continuously.
After Hamas seized control of the territory a year later, routing forces loyal to Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas in a week of deadly clashes, Israel sealed Gaza to all but humanitarian aid and basic supplies.
Last week, Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak ordered Gaza completely locked down in response to persistent rocket and mortar fire.
Amid mounting international fears of a humanitarian crisis in a territory whose 1,5-million inhabitants are largely dependent on foreign aid, Israel eased the blockade on Tuesday, allowing in limited fuel and aid supplies.—AFP
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