Nov. 24, 2008
EL-ARISH, Egypt (AFP) — Egypt on Monday sent 400 police to bolster security at its Rafah border terminal with the Gaza Strip amid demonstrations by Palestinians calling for the crossing to be opened.
The officers were deployed around the crossing point -- the sole Gaza frontier post which bypasses Israel -- "to deal with any possible violence by Palestinian demonstrators," a security official told AFP.
Hundreds of Palestinians have been gathering on the Gaza side of the border crossing since Saturday, demanding the crossing be opened for the sick to receive medical attention and for Muslim pilgrims to travel to Saudi Arabia.
A demonstration by Palestinian women was due to take place later on Monday, the official said.
Earlier this month, Egypt opened its border with the Gaza Strip to allow thousands of students and people needing medical attention to leave the besieged Palestinian territory.
Israel said on Monday it allowed some supplies into Gaza amid mounting international concern over the worsening humanitarian situation for the territory's 1.5 million inhabitants, virtually sealed off from the outside world.
In July, thousands of Palestinians stormed the border in a bid to flee the impoverished territory which has been under a crippling Israeli blockade since the Islamist movement Hamas seized power in June 2007.
In the ensuing clashes, Egyptian security forces drove the crowd back from the border with water cannons as Palestinians hurled rocks before being dispersed by baton-wielding Hamas security men.
In January and February after Hamas destroyed parts of the border barrier, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians flooded into Egypt in search of vital supplies denied them by the Israeli blockade.