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Palestinians Stream Through Hole in Wall
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Palestinians Stream Through Hole in Wall

Middle East

Palestinians Stream Through Hole in Wall
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This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Madeleine Brand.


I'm Alex Chadwick.

There are new developments in the ongoing tensions along the Palestinian Gaza Strip. One and a half million Palestinians live in the small area bordered by Israel and Egypt. The Israelis have kept it cut off for months since the militant Hamas group won elections there.

Last night, some militants blew up a wall along the Egyptian border. And with that down, thousands of Palestinians have run out of the Gaza Strip and into Egypt and they're buying food and oil and all kinds of things.

We're joined by Dion Nissenbaum. He is Jerusalem bureau chief for McClatchy newspapers. He is down in the Gaza City area now. Dion, what's going on?

Mr. DION NISSENBAUM (McClatchy): Well, we're still seeing large numbers of Palestinians flowing over the border into Egypt for the first time in months. They're getting cheese and fuel and olive oil and potato chips - and all the things that have run out here over the last seven months, as Israel has closed the borders and not allowed the import of basic foods.

CHADWICK: The Israelis say that they have blockaded the Gaza Strip because they keep getting rocketed by militants, Hamas militants. But the situation there, I have been reading, has gotten really desperate in the last months. The Palestinians have run out of fuel for their generators. So tell me about the Egyptian side of this. Who built this wall along the Egyptian border? Who knocked it down and how long is it going to stay down?

Mr. NISSENBAUM: The wall was put up actually by Israel during the second Palestinian uprising. Part of it is a 30-foot tall corrugated iron wall, and part of it is 30-foot tall concrete sort of large domino-looking pieces. And the wall was brought down by militants in a well-planned operation.

(Unintelligible) this morning who saw them working at it a week ago, using blow torches to undermine the fence, and then brought in heavy equipment like bulldozers to bring it down. And so it's not something you can just easily throw back up. People expect that this border will be open for at least two or three days. And then at that point we'll (unintelligible) sort of have to see what they're going to try and do to reestablish order.

CHADWICK: Well, the Israelis already are demanding at the Egyptians close this off. I have read Reuters reports that there are huge demonstrations in Cairo today on behalf of Gaza and the Palestinians, and that the government of Hosni Mubarak is trying to arrest many of these demonstrators. But there have to be big pressures, I would think, in Egypt indeed to leave the wall down.

Mr. NISSENBAUM: Obviously, with Israel closing the borders there has been more and more pressure on Hosni Mubarak to help the Palestinians. And President Mubarak said that he was directing his troops to let them come in and shop because they were starving. And so there's a lot pressure on him to help.

And in fact, I think there would be a large number of people in Israel that would be happy if Hosni Mubarak did open a larger route for Palestinians. And then that would give them more of a chance to say, okay, well, now, the Palestinians are able to get out through Egypt and so they don't need any more help from us. And that would allow them to basically sever their relationship with Gaza entirely.

CHADWICK: Dion Nissenbaum, Jerusalem bureau chief from McClatchy newspapers, speaking with us from Gaza. Dion, thank you.

Mr. NISSENBAUM: Thanks, Alex.

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