Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large

Gazans 'held hostage' by Egyptian politics

The Egyptian military closed the Rafah crossing shortly after it removed Mohammed Morsi, preventing thousands of people from leaving or entering Gaza for work, study and medical treatment. Hugh Naylor reports from Ramallah

RAMALLAH // Palestinans in Gaza say the turmoil in Egypt has trapped them in the territory without fuel and fearful of more hardship.

The Egyptian military closed the Rafah crossing shortly after it removed Mohammed Morsi as president last week, which has prevented thousands of people from leaving or entering the territory for work, study and medical treatment.

"Gaza is a trap. Once you get in, you don't know when you can get out," said Nawal Fahmi, 42, a teacher and native of Gaza who wanted to travel to her home in Saudi Arabia. "You are a hostage to politics."

The Israeli government imposes a crippling siege on Gaza and Rafah is the only crossing in the enclave that it does not control.

Egyptian authorities opened the Rafah crossing to people travelling in both directions yesterday to ease the crisis, which comes at the beginning of Ramadan.

But the unofficial Palestinian news agency Maan reported yesterday that the crossing would be open only until today.

Mr Morsi, Egypt's first democratically elected president, was backed by the Muslim Brotherhood, an important ally of Gaza's Hamas rulers.

Gazans fear that the realignment in the region could lead to a return of the policies of Egypt's former president, Hosni Mubarak. He was an enemy of both the Brotherhood and Hamas who helped Israel enforce its blockade of Gaza, which was introduced in 2007 in a bid to topple Hamas.

Hamas, which officially calls for Israel's destruction, took control of Gaza in 2007.

Under the Brotherhood, Egypt had loosened some of the restrictions on Gaza, allowing some residents through the Rafah crossing but never permitting the passage of commercial goods

The recent closure comes amid fears of chaos in the Sinai Peninsula area of Egypt that borders Gaza, including multiple attacks by militants against both Israeli and Egyptian troops over the past two years.

Before last week's coup, Egyptian soldiers were destroying the tunnel networks through which goods flow to Gaza, including vital construction materials that Israel does not let into the territory. They are also used to supply Hamas with weapons.

The tunnel crackdown and Egypt's own fuel shortages have led to a similar problem in Gaza. The territory's 1.7 million residents rely heavily on Egyptian-subsidised fuel, which costs a fraction of that brought in from Israel.

"You have to wait at a petrol station for at least four to six hours to get only a half a tank of petrol," said Fadi Abu Shammala, a father of two who lives in Gaza City.

"It's an emergency."

Gaza's electricity company has begun rationing fuel to ensure 12 hours per day of power in the territory, which already struggles with chronic blackouts. The fuel shortage also has caused inflation to surge across the territory, with taxis and other businesses forced to hike their prices.

"There are sharp price rises in goods that are restricted from passing through Israeli crossings and which, therefore, enter through the tunnels," said Sari Bashi, executive director of Gisha, an Israeli non-governmental organisation that promotes freedom of movement for Gaza residents.

"The cost of some products has doubled."

Guy Inbar, an official in Israel's defence ministry, said his country could increase deliveries of fuel and other goods to Gaza.

"All Palestinians need to do is to ask for them," he said.


* Additional reporting by the Associated Press

twitter: For breaking news from the Gulf, the Middle East and around the globe follow The National World. Follow us

Back to the top

More articles

Editor's Picks

 Fatema holds a picture of her son Nurul Karim as she poses for a photograph in front of her slum house in Savar. Fatema lost her son Nurul Karim and her daughter Arifa, who were working on the fifth floor of Rana Plaza when it collapsed on April 24, 2013. All photos Andrew Biraj / Reuters

These women know the real price of cheap high street fashion

Survivors of the world's worst garment factory accident, struggle to rebuild their lives from the rubble of the Rana Plaza collapse as Bangladesh prepares to mark the first anniversary of the disaster.

 Supporters of unseen India’s main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party prime ministerial candidate and Chief Minister of the western Indian state of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, wave as he arrives to file his election nomination papers in Varanasi. Sanjay Kanojia / AFP Photo

Best photography from around the world April 24

The National View's photo editors pick the best of the day from around the world

 Iranian workers at the Iran Khodro auto plant in Tehran on March 18. Maryam Rahmanian for The National

Iran’s love of cars survives devastating sanctions

Sanctions and energy subsidy reductions might have hurt the Iranian automotive industry. But car makers at one factory are still optimistic, Yeganeh Salehi reports from Tehran

 Iranian President Hassan Rouhani greeted by university students as he leaves Sistan University in Sistan and Baluchestan’s provincial capital of Zahedan on Tuesday, April 15, 2014. Maryam Rahmanian for The National

In Iran’s most troubled province, Rouhani hears pleas for change

Hassan Rounani aims to connect with residents of far-flung Sistan and Baluchestan province.

 Prince Bandar bin Sultan in Riyadh on March 3, 2007. Hassan Ammar / AFP Photo

Saudi Prince Bandar promised a victory he could not deliver

Saudi Arabia's controversial intelligence chief stepped down this week after rumours that his policies on Syria had fallen out of favour.

 Aiza Tonida puts out laundry amid the ruins of her parents home in Leyte province that was destroyed when Typhoon Haiyan struck central Philippines on November 8, 2013. Joey Reyna for The National

Filipinos seek Middle East jobs to rebuild lives after Haiyan

Work in the GCC seen as only hope for thousands left homeless and jobless after devastating storm in November.


To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National