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Hundreds of Thousands of Palestinians Storm Gaza-Egypt Border (CNS) CYBERCAST NEWS SERVICE) By Julie Stahl JERUSALEM, Israel 01/23/08) Source: http://www.cnsnews.com/ViewForeignBureaus.asp?Page=/ForeignBureaus/archive/200801/INT20080123b.html
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Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians flooded into Egypt from the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, after Palestinian gunmen blew up much of the seven-mile border fence overnight.
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Palestinians are desperate to buy food, fuel and other supplies in Egypt, after Israel sealed off all border crossings last week in response to continuing and escalating rocket attacks on Israeli communities.
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On Tuesday and again today, Israel allowed diesel fuel supplies into Gaza to power the electric plant.
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On Tuesday, dozens of Palestinians were injured when Egyptians fired water canons at those trying to cross the border. But on Wednesday, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak -- facing the inevitable -- said Egypt would allow the Palestinians in.
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"I told them (Egyptian troops) to let them come in and eat and buy food and then return them later as long as they were not carrying weapons," Mubarak said in Cairo.
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He said Egyptian troops are keeping an eye on the Palestinian shoppers, apparently to make sure they go back home. "Egyptians troops accompanied them to buy food and then allowed them to return to the Gaza Strip," is how Mubarak phrased it.
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Mubarak said the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are starving because of the Israeli border closure. (Aid organizations have said that a humanitarian crisis is looming in Gaza, but until now, no one has mentioned starvation. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has pledged not to allow a humanitarian crisis develop.)
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At the same time, Mubarak also criticized Hamas for continuing to fire missiles into Israel, saying it "does not help to bring quiet."
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On Tuesday, Palestinian terrorists launched some 22 rockets and mortar shells at Israel. But there had been no rockets or mortars launched at Israel as of mid-afternoon on Wednesday.
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Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Wednesday that it was important to take care of Israel´s security needs but it is also important to answer the humanitarian needs of Gaza Strip residents. Rice said she believed it was possible to meet the needs of both sides.
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Hamas expressed its support for the destruction of the border fence, saying in a statement that it is "a reflection of the catastrophic situation that the Palestinian people are living through, due to the Israeli blockade." Hamas police reportedly were directing traffic through the border on Wednesday.
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Earlier, Gaza residents complained that both Israel and their Arab neighbors were besieging them.
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Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Aryeh Mekel noted that Israel has no security forces along that border and it expects Egypt to control the situation there, as set forth in signed agreements with Israel.
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According to experts here, Egypt has no desire to get stuck with taking care of the Palestinians.
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Israel also is concerned that the open border will allow smugglers to bring in weapons, ammunition, explosives and terrorists.
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Hamas and other terrorist organizations may be taking advantage of the downed border fence to make "a bad situation even worse," Mekel said by telephone.
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Damascus-based Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal has vowed continue the "resistance, including rocket attacks" until Israel "ended the occupation and the aggression."
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Meanwhile, Israel is waiting to see if the United Nations Security Council will pass a resolution on Wednesday condemning the Israeli closure of the Gaza Strip.
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Ambassadors of Arab States as well as the 57-member Organization of the Islamic Conference called for the Security Council discussion of the situation in the Gaza Strip.
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The PLO´s observer at the U.N., Riad Mansour, accused Israel of "cruel and illegal behavior" that "endangers the lives of millions" of Palestinians and "undermines the chances for peace."
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But Israeli Charge d´Affaires at the United Nations Gilad Cohen challenged the U.N. body.
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"What would you do if London, Moscow, Paris, or Tripoli was attacked and fired on? Would you sit back and do nothing? I am certain that no Member State on this Council -- and certainly no country in the world -- would be silent. And Israel is no different," Cohen said. (copyright 1998-2008 Cybercast News Service. 01/23/08)
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