Egypt ‘makes bad Gaza situation worse’, Irish say
EGYPT’S new regime is tightening the country’s border with Gaza, a move that could quickly worsen conditions for people in the besieged Palestinian territory, Irish activists have warned.
News that the military government had sent troops and bulldozers to secure the border at Rafah has spread fear in Gaza, which depends heavily on fuel and goods that are “smuggled” through tunnels from Egypt.
“This is making a bad humanitarian situation even worse,” Zoë Lawlor, a spokesperson for Gaza Action Ireland, said. Lawlor, who along with other members of the organisation visited Gaza earlier this year after crossing legally from Egypt, said the Egyptian actions were “very worrying and a real threat to people in Gaza”.
Lawlor noted that the busy al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City relies on smuggled fuel to run its generators — essential given Gaza’s erratic electricity supplies. “The Israeli siege would starve Gaza if it weren’t for what usually comes in ‘illegally’ through Rafah, everything from fuel to flour to fish,” Lawlor said.
The government in Gaza also relies heavily for revenue on its taxation of such smuggled goods.
After the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak in 2011, it had become somewhat easier — though still very difficult — for both Palestinians and international visitors to cross legally in and out of Gaza at Rafah. But the Morsi government, despite its supposed closeness to Hamas, closed many tunnels and did not consistently improve the border regime.
Now, it appears the new government is prepared to make things even worse.
Eygpt claims that the tunnels have been used by Islamic extremists to enter its territory in the dangerous Sinai region. Gaza Action Ireland has called on Egypt not to make Palestinians in Gaza suffer for its security concerns. Many Palestinians arriving in Cairo in order to access Gaza through Rafah have been deported to the countries they entered Egypt from and many hundreds more were stranded on both sides of the border in the days following the ouster of the Morsi government. Many thousands were also stranded in other countries as they attempted to return to Gaza through Egypt and were being denied entry.
Gaza Action Ireland is a new organisation (which originated in Irish Ship to Gaza) that has forged links in the Palestinian territory with sports clubs, artists, fishermen, journalists, human-rights activists and providers of emergency services.