CAIRO: Palestinian perceptions of favoritism over who was chosen in the limited number allowed to enter Egypt through the Rafah border crossing led to clashes Wednesday.
Egyptian authorities again sealed the crossing and other border points completely, sources in the area told Daily News Egypt.
Thousands amassed at the border after Egypt reopened the crossing for two days to allow Palestinians in need of medical attention or pursuing studies abroad to enter.
The agreement between Egypt and Hamas allowed for only a few hundred registered Palestinians to enter through the crossing, which straddles the Egypt-Gaza border.
Around 200 were allowed in on Tuesday and none on Wednesday as a result of the clashes that occurred.
Thousands of Gazans gathered at the border hoping to get through. When that prospect seemed unlikely, they protested and threw stones at Egyptian security forces as they attempted to storm the border. Egyptian border troops responded by firing water cannons at the gathered protestors preventing them from crossing into Egypt.
Egypt then closed the crossing and calm was restored by 2 pm local time.
Six Egyptian soldiers were slightly wounded by the rocks thrown at them.
“Palestinians were angry at the slow rate of processing at the crossing and favoritism, whether by Hamas or the Egyptian side, about who was allowed to cross the border, Rafah journalist and activist Mustapha Singer told Daily News Egypt.
“They stormed the Rafah gate but they couldn’t break through and Egypt closed the crossing. Other Palestinians who had been stranded on the Egyptian side were unable to return to Gaza and remained at the border, he added.
Egypt had reopened the crossing for two days after negotiating a truce between Hamas, which rules in Gaza, and Israel.
Local coordinator for Palestinian affairs and Fatah member Abdel-Sattar El-Ghalban denied that the protests broke out because of alleged favoritism, but rather because too many people showed up at the border hoping to get through when the Egyptians and Hamas had agreed on 200 Gazans only.
“As a member of Fatah it would be easy for me to blame Hamas for what happened but this is not the case, he told Daily News Egypt, “but quite simply there were too many people at the border hoping to get through.
“There was no favoritism. More people just showed up than those who were registered to cross through, he added.
El-Ghalban said that Egypt and Hamas were pinning the blame on each other for the interminable delays over processing the Palestinians at the crossing.
El-Ghalban chided Egypt for closing the crossing after the clashes, saying, “Why should many suffer for the actions of one impetuous youth? We are very sorry over what happened, it was a very unfortunate event, but 15,000 people in Gaza urgently need medical attention.
“Is the Rafah crossing now an Israeli-Egyptian crossing? Is Egypt now causing problems with the Palestinians? If that is the case then the crossing might as well remain closed permanently, he added.