CAIRO: Three people were injured, one critically, in a clash Tuesday between Egyptian police and dozens of Palestinians trapped in a north Sinai airport.
Approximately 100 Palestinians have been stuck in the airport for nearly three weeks since the Rafah border crossing was closed due to violent clashes in the Gaza Strip one month ago. Palestinians who arrived from other Arab countries remain in limbo, unable to return home but also lacking visas to enter Egypt.
Clashes broke out when they tried to force their way out of the airport, an attempt quickly blocked by police forces.
One Palestinian told AFP that police were beating protestors with sticks.
Resident of Al-Arish Ashraf El-Hefny did not seem to be surprised that tensions had erupted.
He told The Daily Star Egypt that he didn’t feel there was any increase in security “at all, adding that he believed the Palestinians in Egypt and in Palestine compromised with the Egyptian government too often.
A Sheikh from Zwayed, where many Palestinians remain, told The Daily Star Egypt that the thousands of Palestinians scattered around Al-Arish, Rafah, and Zwayed were living in “unbelievable humanitarian conditions and lacked any financial resources.
He explained that many of the Palestinians were only visiting for medical treatment. He says residents often witness the direct harassment of Palestinians who attempt to congregate.
He added that some Palestinians alleged that the money Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh had allotted to the Palestinians currently trapped in Egypt, was unfairly distributed by those in charge and that Egyptian security was taking a share of it.
The Ministry of Interior had not released a statement but a ministry source said the riot was under investigation.
The Sinai governorate could not be reached for comment at time of press.
Palestinians in the airport, including women and children, went on hunger strike last week to protest their conditions. They only ended the strike when they received assurances they would be allowed to leave.
President Hosni Mubarak said recently that nearly 4,000 Palestinians had entered Egypt from the Gaza Strip. Security sources say the figure is closer to 6,000. Additional reporting by AFP