'Breakout into Israel' ahead|
Abraham Rabinovich, Jerusalem
January 26, 2008
A SENIOR Hamas official warned yesterday that the next
breakout from the Gaza Strip could be into Israel, with 500,000 Palestinians
attempting to march towards the towns and villages from which they or their
parents fled or were expelled 60 years ago.
"This is not an imaginary scenario and many Palestinians would be prepared to
sacrifice their lives," said Ahmed Youssef, political adviser to Hamas Prime
Minister Ismail Haniya.
Israeli minister Ze'ev Boim said the threat must be taken seriously in light
of the successful Hamas breakout into Egyptian territory on Wednesday, adding:
"We must learn from what has just happened there."
Egypt moved last night to end the great Gaza breakout, which had reverberated
throughout the region as all sides tried to come to grips with its implications.
Egyptian security forces announced by loudspeaker in towns near the border
with the Gaza Strip that it would be closed from 3pm (midnight AEDT), with an
unknown number of Palestinians still in Egypt.
Riot police turned water cannon on Palestinians trying to cross into Egypt,
despite Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak saying earlier that he would not allow
the people of Gaza to starve.
Hamas, riding high on its operational success, sought to parlay it into
political gain by seeking Egyptian approval for new border arrangements that
would give Hamas for the first time a role in the vital crossing point at Rafah,
between Gaza and Egypt's Sinai Peninsula.
Israeli security officials said Hamas and other militant groups had already
exploited the breach in the border wall to send "numerous" armed men into Sinai
with the aim of infiltrating into Israel along the long, largely undefended,
border between Sinai and Israel.
The Israeli road running the length of the border was yesterday shut to
civilian traffic and the army deployed reinforcements in the area.
The officials said the militants were eager to hit back at Israel for heavy
casualties in Israeli attacks in recent weeks and that attacks from Sinai were
likely to come within the next two weeks.
Israeli civilians on vacation along Sinai's Red Sea coast were advised to
return to Israel for fear Palestinian militants would try to seize them as
Israeli Deputy Defence Minister Matan Vilna'i said yesterday the breakout
into Egypt was an opportunity for Israel to rid itself of its responsibility to
supply Gaza with electricity and water and to serve as a channel for Gaza's
imports and exports.
"When Gaza is open to the other side we lose responsibility for it," he said.
"We want to disconnect from it."
Egypt, however, has made it clear it does not want responsibility for the
troublesome strip, whose Islamic militants are ideological partners of Egypt's
Muslim Brotherhood. It particularly does not want indirect responsibility for
the rockets fired from the strip into Israel.
The crossing point had been closed since Hamas's seizure of the Gaza Strip
If Mr Mubarak were to allow new border arrangements with Hamas that would
permit a free flow of people and goods, it would violate Egypt's agreement with
the international "Quartet" -- the US, UN, European Union and Russia -- for a
border terminal without Hamas involvement and with cameras permitting Israel to
monitor the crossing.
However, Mr Mubarak would find it hard, not least for his image in the Arab
world, to be seen as party to a renewed siege of the Palestinians.
Israel says it will continue its siege until the rocket firing ceases, with
an invasion of Gaza a likelihood if the rocketing does not cease.
Original article: The Austrailian
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