Egypt turmoil brings hope to Gazans

2011-01-31 09:01

Gaza City - Residents of Hamas-ruled Gaza are closely watching the drama unfolding in Egypt, believing any change in the government there would be positive because of restrictions imposed by President Hosni Mubarak on their blockaded territory.

Egypt and Israel severely limited access to Gaza after Hamas took over the crowded coastal strip of 1.5 million people from Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in 2007. Gaza and Egypt share a 15km border, and hundreds of smuggling tunnels beneath it serve as a main supply line for Gaza.

Despite renewed hopes in Gaza for open borders, the territory has become more isolated as a result of the unrest in Egypt.

The passenger crossing between Gaza and Egypt, which partially reopened several months ago as part of a slight easing of the blockade, was closed on Sunday by Egypt until further notice.

Smugglers said the flow of goods from Egypt, including cheap fuel, has been disrupted in recent days. Gazans have begun hoarding fuel, and longer lines of motorists were seen at gas stations.

Egypt's policy of helping Israel keep Gaza isolated has been deeply unpopular in the Arab world. Ordinary Gazans and Hamas members hope any future Egyptian government, under pressure to adopt more popular policies, would quickly ease the blockade.

Egypt change to reflect in Gaza

"Any Gazan is waiting for a change on the Egyptian side, because Egypt is the lung that we breathe through," a Hamas official said on Sunday. He spoke on condition of anonymity because of orders by his movement to keep silent about the fast-paced developments.

"Any change (in Egypt) would be reflected in Gaza," he said.

In Gaza's Bureij refugee camp, 29-year-old Khaled Nasser was optimistic.

"Old women used to say, if you see clouds in the sky of Egypt, rain is expected in Gaza. The good news is coming," he said, leaning against his taxi as he followed news from Egypt on the radio.

Early on Sunday, a Gaza militant who was among thousands of inmates to break out of Egyptian prisons in recent days reached his home in the Bureij camp by slipping through a tunnel.

Hassan Washah, aged 27, said he escaped at a time of chaos and shooting in the prison yard. He said he had served three years of a 10-year term for trying to carry out an attack in Israel.

Hamas' relationship with the Mubarak government has been rocky. The Islamists frequently challenged Egypt, backing a massive breach of the Gaza-Egypt border wall in 2008 and refusing to sign an Egyptian-proposed power-sharing deal with Abbas.

Abbas not taking sides

Hamas has stopped short of a complete break with Cairo because Mubarak holds the keys to the gates of Gaza.

Mubarak, in turn, has tried to contain Hamas, the Gaza branch of the pan-Arab Muslim Brotherhood, but has also kept channels of communication open. In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood is outlawed and has long opposed Mubarak.

In the West Bank, where Hamas rival Abbas heads a self-ruled government, officials watched the turmoil in Egypt with concern.

Abbas stands to lose his main Arab patron if Mubarak is weakened or pushed aside. Since becoming president in 2005, Abbas has sought Mubarak's backing for any major decision involving negotiations with Israel and is a frequent visitor in Cairo. Abbas has relied on Egypt as a go-between with Hamas.

Abbas has avoided taking sides in public, only saying on Saturday that he is eager to see Egypt secure and stable.

In a show of support for Mubarak, Abbas' security forces quickly broke up a small solidarity rally for the Egyptian protesters outside Egypt's diplomatic mission in the West Bank on Sunday.

  • Fazil - 2011-01-31 09:55

    Well the chickens have certainly come home to roost. First Tunisia, then Egypt, then Jordan...etc.. The point is that for far too long the World has managed splintering Arab democratic aspirations under the guise of imposed dictatorships. The consequence is that the power balance in the region is certainly going to tilt and the Israeli/Palestinian matter will become paramount. What is very noticebale is that the West appeared to have been caught off-guard by the ground swell and are panicking to try and preserve the 'peace' between Arab and Jew. Watch this space...

      Bil_S - 2011-01-31 10:17

      The west have kept Hosni in power, but with any dictatorship be it 10 years or 300 hundred years, it will come to an end. Israel and the US must be panicking as one of their big allies in the region might have to surrender to true democracy.

      Totman - 2011-01-31 10:53

      I agree. Dictatorships should be kicked out. Maybe it was also kept there for financial/control gain. Although saying that, I hope they do not get another one in the form of religion. Religion is good, but even if the majority vote for that, we know that it is not a fair government system and it usually open the door for a possibility for the more conservative ones to take control. The region is known for that. You can't even use Sudi as an example, because there it is not even free and the Americans close their eyes because of what they gain from them. Good luck with your strive to freedom!!!!!

      Zanu - 2011-01-31 12:20

      The US will not panic, and will supply more arms to the area then ever before. This is business as usual , and might increase sales. Israel might be panicking because things on the ground are about to change, and nobody likes change. unfortunately though, it is the Palestinians people that will suffer If hamas manages to get arms through Egypt now. Hamas has terrorised and kept hostage its own civilian population for too long now. It will be nice to see if protests break out in Gaza, Syria and Iran like in Tunisia, Egypt and Jordon. Bad leadership is the reason why there is no peace, Hamas is cruel to its own people, never mind the Israeliā€™s

      amos - 2011-02-20 19:19

      what the f**k is Totman babling about? a typical bigots response from the "superior race"?

  • dracqlore - 2011-01-31 11:04

    Guys you're missing the point here, those dictatorships has been keeping extremists at bay... Sadly they are using democracy as the disguise of their cause. The first thing they'll toss is that same democracy and the world will be a far worse place than it is today. Watch this space.

      Neutedop - 2011-01-31 11:40

      If I could - I would have liked this 300 times. These guys still have common sense - and still do what's right for the people - if it is Jew, Muslim or Christian. They do what is best for the world - not for this or that beliefs.

      Neutedop - 2011-01-31 11:41


      Neo - 2011-01-31 13:14

      So if you opress your own people as well as spend most of the funding from your puppet masters on arms and ammo and line your own pockets you are not being 'extreme'? Time to stop the labelling and let the people speak!!!

      amos - 2011-02-21 14:04

      keeping extremists at bay at the cost of 80 Billion american dollars in the pocket.

  • aq syed - 2011-01-31 11:39

    @dracqlore so if they keep your enemy at bay their okay.your comfort at other peoples selfish

  • Currie_Mafia - 2011-01-31 12:11

    Power to the people, the world over...Strange how on this earth there exists abject poverty & digustingly sickening opulence. We, humankind must realise that we are only as strong as our weakest link. Dictatorships must be exterminated. - 2011-01-31 13:13

      YES, mugabe and the anc must go..

      Wonderboy - 2011-01-31 16:46

      Who are the people? Here it seems to be JZ and his cronies. They have recently achieved "Power to the people" in 1994. Great system! I don't quite think that is the answer either. Democracy is dead there must be something better.

  • amos - 2011-02-21 13:54

    what the f**k is Totman babling about? a typical bigots response from the "superior race"?

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