CBNNews.com - After masked Palestinian gunmen blew several openings in the concrete wall separating Gaza from the Egyptian Sinai Wednesday morning, thousands of Palestinians poured into Egypt through the breaches.
A short time later, Egyptian security forces opened the Rafah border crossing, closed last spring after Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip from Fatah forces loyal to Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.
Late Tuesday, an estimated 60 Palestinians were injured when Egyptian border police tried to disperse the growing mob.
Some analysts say Egypt fears an infiltration of Hamas terrorists who might join forces with the Egyptian-based Muslim Brotherhood against President Hosni Murbarak's government.
Many of the Palestinian infiltrators wound up in the el-Arish area, the resort hub of northern Sinai, where they purchased food and household items that have been in short supply.
After the Hamas military coup in June, Israel imposed a partial blockade of goods and services in and out of Gaza. On Thursday, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak ordered a full closure after days of increasing Kassam rocket bombardments on southern Israeli cities and towns.
Late Monday, capitulating to international pressure, Barak partially lifted the closure, which brought renewed rounds of rocket and mortar shell attacks on Israel the following day, with 19 hits recorded in and around the rocket-weary city of Sderot.
Hamas Bears Responsibility
Israel's government holds Hamas responsible for withholding fuel supplies, imposing unnecessary power outages on civilians and generally manipulating circumstances to create an international campaign against the Jewish state.
Speaking at the Herzliya Conference, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni blamed Hamas for Palestinian suffering in the Gaza Strip.
"They are using us to fuel their internal fighting and political conflicts," Livni said.
"I am not among those who care whether this or that group fired a rocket," she said. "Hamas has control of the territory, and Hamas is responsible," the foreign minister told conference participants.
Despite the situation in Gaza, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and the PA chairman plan to continue negotiations, now reportedly dealing with "core issues," including final borders and the disposition of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank); the status of Jerusalem, with particular emphasis on the Old City; and the right of return for so-called Palestinian refugees and their descendants.
The U.N. Security Council meets today to further consider a draft resolution, proposed by Arab League members, condemning the closure of Gaza and seeking to impose international sanctions against Israel.
Dan Gillerman, Israel's U.N. ambassador, also attending the Herzliya Conference, said he hoped "common sense will prevail among the Security Council members."
Gillerman pointed out that the Security Council has never convened to discuss the Palestinian rocket assault on Israel, but rather takes issue with Israeli efforts to stop the attacks and protect its citizens.
Sources: The Jerusalem Post, The Associated Press, YNet news service, Haaretz