Above the crowd of thousands floated a red mattress, still wrapped in plastic. Underneath, holding aloft their new purchase, Kayad Shalafa and his brother Said were returning through the sand dunes of northern Egypt. They walked back over the trampled barbed wire, past the placid Egyptian soldiers and on to the blackened hole in the concrete border wall they had walked through that morning from Gaza.
The invitations described it as an opportunity for the "notable people" of Gaza to meet their prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas leader who was elected as Palestinian prime minister a year ago. Dressed in a suit and tie and with a red and white keffiyeh draped over his head and shoulders, Haniyeh spoke for an hour to an audience of Palestinian newspaper editors and local figures in Gaza City this week.