CAIRO: The People’s Committee for the Right to Return and the Tagamou Party are meeting today in Al-Arish to discuss the best way to stir action against the possibility of relocating stranded Palestinians to North Sinai permanently. Around 1,000 Palestinians and Egyptians are expected to attend.
Alaa El-Kashef of the North Sinai Tagamou Party told The Daily Star Egypt that seven leaders from the Palestinian community in North Sinai, including both Fatah and Hamas representatives, met Monday to communicate their concerns about reallocation plans as well as prepare for a protest and pamphlet distribution.
El-Kashef says there is widespread concern that the Palestinians stranded in Al-Arish, Rafah and Sheikh Zwayed since the Rafah border crossing was closed a month and a half ago will not be granted the right to return to their homes in Gaza. They fear that North Sinai will be a new “homeland for the estimated 6,000 Palestinians currently awaiting return.
El-Kashef sites two explanations for these concerns. First, he refers to the governments’ efforts to clear land 150 meters from the current border with Gaza. Second, he says that Palestinian investors are buying up land in Rafah and Sheikh Zwayed.
Other signs that the current situation will be prolonged, says El-Kashef, are the increasing number of tents being set up and the money being distributed through the Palestinian embassy.
Asked why such a reallocation of Palestinian people would occur, El-Kashef simply said that it was part of the agenda for the “New Middle East, a phrase coined by US President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
The purpose of the protests, says El-Kashef, is to “pressure Egypt and Palestine through both Hamas and Fatah to send a message to all Arabs that the current situation is a political cause.
Protests will be held in Cairo, North Sinai, and Gaza, and information will printed and distributed in the streets and through the media. The details of the protest will be decided in today’s conference.
El-Kashef says the Tagamou Party’s demands will be taken directly to President Mubarak through a government official.
“We are inviting all Egyptians to protest against what he says is Egypt’s refusal to open the Rafah border crossing.
An estimated 6,000 Palestinians are in the North Sinai, unable to return. To date, 27 have died, according to local Palestinians’ accounts.