Gazans follow Egypt's unrest with deep concerns
The unrest that Egypt has been witnessing over the past few days has compelled the neighboring Gaza Strip population to follow with deep concerns the situation, amid fears that the tunnels, which represent a vein of life for them, would shut down, Xinhua reported.
The usually overcrowded streets of Gaza City looked almost empty on Sunday, while most people stayed at home watching Arab and foreign satellite channels on TV with high expectations. Discussions and debates are in almost every house and every store in the impoverished coastal enclave.
The people followed the situation in Egypt with concerns, while Islamic Hamas movement rulers of the enclave and leaders of other factions preferred to keep silent and decided not to give any political comment. They are waiting to see the final consequences of the unrest.
The overall movement of trade, mainly the prices of food products that are allowed in Gaza through Israel, didn't witness any changes, but some construction materials that are smuggled in from Egypt through the tunnels dug under the borderline became very expensive.
Residents of the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah on the borders with Egypt said that workers in the smuggling tunnels had completely stopped taking smuggled products, as the tunnel business had completely stopped. Dozens of vehicles were seen overcrowded outside gas stations in Gaza City.
They said they also heard explosions and gunshots on the Egyptian side of the borders, believing that the Egyptian security forces are preventing Egyptian trucks loaded with fuel and several kinds of products from reaching the borderline area.
Over the past three years, the Gaza Strip population has been depending on smuggled Egyptian fuel. Over the past three days, different kinds of fuels for cars and engines were not able to be smuggled in through the tunnels. However, the Hamas ministry of interior said the enclave has enough food and fuel.
"The prices of smuggled fuel went up from 1.3 Israeli Shekels to 3 Shekels (0.82 U.S. dollars)," said Zeyad Khudeir, a worker at one of the gas stations in the town of Jabalia in northern Gaza Strip. The interior ministry, however, said there is no crisis and there is no need to panic.
Ibrahim Jaber, a director in the Hamas-run ministry of economy in Gaza, told Xinhua that the basic needs of food and fuel for the population are met, and the people shouldn't pay attention to the rumors. "We have enough amounts of food and fuel in the Gaza Strip, " he said.
"We urge the residents not to panic and not to store more amounts of fuel because there is no crisis. The prices of the fuels brought from Egypt hadn't changed," said Jaber, adding that his ministry is observing all gas stations in the Gaza Strip, and will listen to any complaints of the residents.
The Gaza Strip residents had dug hundreds of tunnels after Israel imposed a tight blockade on the enclave after Hamas seized control of it in 2007. In June last year, Israel eased the blockade following its naval forces' attack on the Gaza-bound flotilla.
Meanwhile, the Hamas ministry of interior said in a press statement that the borders between the Gaza Strip and Egypt are under control. Witnesses said that dozens of security operatives of the Hamas government were deployed in the borderline area to prevent any attempt of infiltration from Gaza to Egypt.
Ghazi Hamad, chief of the birders corporation in Gaza, said in a press statement that the Rafah border crossing won't be opened on Sunday, adding that it might remain shut down for several days.
"We have been in contact with the official Egyptian bodies and we were informed that the crossing won't be opened on Sunday and will remain closed for a few days," said Hamad.
Egypt permanently reopened the Rafah border crossing point in early June last year following the Israeli naval forces' attack on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla, where nine Turkish activists were killed and dozens wounded.
Hamad called on Egypt "to reasonably scale the issue of keeping the crossing point closed, because closing it will harm the population of Gaza, mainly patients who are in need of oversees medical treatment."
Egypt decided to close the crossing point with the Gaza Strip amid the wave of unrest that swept the country since Tuesday.