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Continuing tensions after the border between Gaza and Israel was shut down culminated in masked gunmen detonating land mines along the Egypt-Gaza border fence, destroying nearly two-thirds of the seven-mile corrugated metal fence.
Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians poured from Gaza into Egypt to buy supplies, which had become scarce due to the closed border. Most citizens were allowed into the nation to buy food, gasoline and other supplies.
The Associated Press also reported that the Gaza inhabitants came back with crates of Coca-Cola, televisions, and, for one man, even a motorcycle.
The Israeli government had closed the border to the Gaza strip, most of which they control, in response to continual rocket fire from the Hamas-governed region. Over the past few days, more than 100 rockets have been fired from Gaza into Israel. The Israeli government responded with air attacks, killing 31 Palestinians in the past week, six of whom were civilians.
The border closure sparked criticism from around the world. Both the United Nations and UNICEF were troubled by the blockade, which also stopped supplies from these humanitarian groups from entering Gaza. Without aid or supplies, hospitals were unable to fully operate and citizens did not have food. Others also criticized Israel’s hardline stance, claiming they should not punish all of Gaza for the offenses of a few.
Officials in Gaza claimed that the main power plant had to be shut down due to the closure, cutting off electricity for 800,000 citizens. However, Egypt and Israel have continued to supply 144 of the 200 megawatts used by the 1.5 million residents of Gaza.
Since the breach of Egypt’s border, Israel sent fuel to restart the power plant, along with food, cooking gas and medical supplies. Nonetheless, the Israeli government maintains that Hamas has closed down the power station to draw sympathy from outside nations.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert defended the border closure, saying, “We cannot and will not tolerate this unceasing fire at Israeli citizens…so we will continue to operate.”
Egypt, which also closed its borders per Israel’s request, allowed Gaza’s citizens into its nation after the wall was overrun. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak addressed reporters, saying, “I told them to let them come in and eat and buy food and then return them later as long as they were not carrying weapons.”
He also added, “But today a great number of them came back because the Palestinians in Gaza are starving due to the Israeli siege. Egyptian troops accompanied them to buy food and then allowed them to return to the Gaza Strip.”
Israel will continue its heightened restrictions for the border indefinitely, but will allow infrequent and limited aid shipments to prevent an acute humanitarian crisis.
The rocket attacks that led to the closure have continued.