Chaos in Gaza

MW �so describe the scene at the Gaza-Egyptian border today.� AM �well, extraordinary scenes. It started very much as the last couple days have left off with hundreds of people going backwards and forwards through those gaps left by those explosions that took place just a couple of days ago, where the fence was blown up at several points along the border by Palestinian militants early on Wednesday morning. So people were going backwards and forwards into Egypt, buying those goods that have been so scarce here in the Gaza Strip. But what happened early afternoon was an intense stand off between Egyptian forces and those Palestinians because the Egyptians had decided that this was the time they were going to close those gaps in the border. There was a rumor earlier in the day that the Egyptians were going to try and do this. The people really showed that they were not going to let this freedom of movement that they had gained over the last couple of days be taken away from them. So they stood almost nose to nose with these Egyptian security forces. There were flickers of violence with rocks being thrown and also there was some gunfire, mainly in the air. The Egyptians also tried to use water cannon at some places along the fence. But in the end the Egyptian security forces simply had to relent because there were so many that wanted to go through and buy more goods.� MW �and do the shop owners and businesspeople on the Egyptian side actually like this flood from Gaza despite the Egyptian government's attempts to keep them out?� AM �Well of course and they've raised their prices in recent days. Really, things are going off the shelves in those Egyptian shops as soon as they're filled up.� MW �from your vantage point it really sounds like the Egyptians are basically throwing up their hands. What do the Israelis and Americans have to say about this sense that the Egyptians don't have this under their control?� AM �The Americans and Israelis have of course put a great deal of pressure on Egypt to get this border back under control. what they're worried about is not only that these goods are coming into the Gaza Strip but also that weapons are coming in from militant groups, which they fear they ultimately will be used against Israel. What Hamas, the Islamist group that's in control of Gaza, has shown is really nothing can truly be achieved they think, and that's the message they're trying to get across to the rest of the world, unless they deal with them. And Egypt seems to have learned that today, that in spite of the fact that Hamas said they respected Egypt's right to re-seal this border, unless Hamas was actively involved in policing that, the Egyptians were really powerless in stopping the Palestinians from getting to the Egyptian side. And there is talk now of an invitation by Egypt for Hamas representatives to come along and decide what happens to that border, which is exactly what Hamas wanted.� MW �what is the evidence that militants are crossing through this open point in the wall?� AM �Well it's difficult to say, there's nothing overt, there are no weapons slung over shoulders as such. It's pretty common knowledge that weapons have been getting into Gaza in any case through various tunnel networks or various means already. Of course now it is very difficult because even vehicles have been going over this open border. And Israel certainly seems to think that it is happening, it carried out air strikes during the night and they hit two vehicles very close to this border area and killed four militants. So they certainly think it's happening.� MW �remind us very quickly what precipitated the Israeli blockade of Gaza that's caused this traffic at the Egypt border and whether it's likely they'll lift it any time soon?� AM �There have been restrictions on Gaza for some 18 months or so, but in June of last year when Hamas seized control of this territory, the Israelis then closed the borders for people to enter or leave really and then they closed the goods crossing also. Israel said it did this for its security and in retaliation to rocket fire, Palestinian militants firing rockets into Israel. Israel had tried military means, they had used air strikes and killed hundreds of people during 2007 but it didn't stop the rockets. So they started with these sanctions as well, and that doesn't seem to have stopped the rockets either, the Palestinians say they're firing the rockets in turn in response to Israeli violations and killings. So it's a circle that never looked like it was going to stop on either side and it certainly doesn't look like it's going to stop now.�