Egypt Reacts to Palestinian Wall Breach Thousands of Palestinians flooded into Egypt from the Gaza Strip on Wednesday after the border wall was blown up by militants. Egypt has yet to move to repair the hole.
NPR logo

Egypt Reacts to Palestinian Wall Breach

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/18375933/18375919" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Egypt Reacts to Palestinian Wall Breach

Egypt Reacts to Palestinian Wall Breach

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/18375933/18375919" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

MADELEINE BRAND, Host:

This is DAY TO DAY. We turn to foreign news now. I'm Madeleine Brand.

ALEX CHADWICK, Host:

Peter, welcome back. And for a second day, Palestinians have free access out of Gaza and into Egypt. What is the situation there now?

PETER KENYON: Well, things seem to be less chaotic today than yesterday, Alex. But there are still thousands of Gazans flowing across into El-Arish and border towns on the Egyptian side. And there's an instant economy still going today, complete with money changers, taxis, a flow of trucks heading toward the border towns with more Egyptian goods for Gazans to buy - everything from fuel, cigarettes, food, sheep, cattle, you name it. Officials from both the Islamist Hamas faction, which controls Gaza, and from Egypt have been saying that these holes, massive holes in the border walls, will have to be repaired fairly soon. But for the moment people are still free to cross into Egypt and back again.

CHADWICK: Can you tell, Peter, if anyone is actually in charge of anything there? Is this organized by Hamas?

KENYON: I wouldn't use the term organized in reference to this story. And there is plenty of suspicion that Hamas security forces had some kind of a hand in the torch-cutting and the blowing of holes into these border walls yesterday. But in the sense of an international border as we know it - with customs, passports, et cetera - no, that does not exist. Egyptian border guards say they're checking the returning Palestinians for weapons in particular. But that's about it.

CHADWICK: So this follows the months of blockade set in place by Israel in order to contain Hamas there in Gaza. An Israeli official today said that if the Gaza border is open to Egypt, then Israel wants no more responsibility for Gaza, doesn't want to continue supplying electricity or medicine or anything else. Is Egypt ready to take this on?

KENYON: But there does seem to be some kind of a growing sense inside Israel that it may be possible to more completely disengage, if not utterly completely, i.e. stop providing goods or reduce services to Gaza. Aid officials, of course, say that would spark a humanitarian crisis.

CHADWICK: Well, what about the Israeli concerns about this open border allowing Hamas to bring in more weapons and indeed more of the missiles that they've been firing into Southern Israel?

KENYON: Well, that's a very real concern within the Israeli security establishment especially. They are very nervous about explosives and weapons and material for rockets coming in from the Egyptian side. There's also a great deal of skepticism about the Egyptian claims that they're not allowing any weapons into Gaza. I think if there are fresh arms getting in, we may see militants using them in the coming days and weeks. And that would very likely be followed by Israeli military action either inside Gaza or, I suppose, possibly along the border. And that would be very tricky because of the presence of the Egyptian border guards there.

CHADWICK: So how is all this playing in Egypt, Peter? I read news accounts yesterday of big demonstrations in Cairo.

KENYON: Yes. An attempt at a big demonstration. That's not usual these days. They were quickly suppressed. Lots of arrests were made. And that's how Egypt has been tending to deal with any public dissent lately.

CHADWICK: Peter, thank you.

KENYON: You're welcome, Alex.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.