Thursday, January 8, 2009

Egypt Pulls Down the Shutters on Aid

By Adam Morrow and Khaled Moussa al-Omrani

"CAIRO, Jan 8 (IPS) - Egyptian authorities have almost fully sealed the border with Gaza, preventing delivery of desperately needed humanitarian aid.

"The government has expressly forbidden the entry of aid convoys laden with food into the Gaza Strip," Emmad al-Din Moustafa, member of the Popular Committee for Aiding Gaza told IPS. "The continued border closure -- like the Israeli assault itself -- constitutes a crime against humanity.".....

Meanwhile, local activists say the situation in the Gaza Strip has become dire.

"Many Gazans can't find food," said Moustafa, who is in regular contact by telephone with several families across the border. "If the situation doesn't drastically improve in the next three days, people will starve to death. Meanwhile 50,000 tonnes of food is sitting in Al-Arish, awaiting the authorities' permission to make the crossing. Where are the international humanitarian institutions, like the UN?"

Doctors and medical experts have been barred from entering the Gaza Strip. On Tuesday (Jan. 6), a group of 55 Egyptian medical volunteers of varying specialties from universities throughout the country were prevented from crossing into Gaza. "Although we signed a statement saying we were responsible for our own safety, the border authorities at Rafah refused us entry without explanation," Yasser Mohamed, a heart surgery specialist at Cairo University and one of the medical volunteers, told IPS from Al-Arish. "Shortly afterwards, the minister of health -- who happened to be in the area -- told us we couldn't enter Gaza because 'Israel had not given its approval'.

"Doctors in Gaza, who are usually trained only in general medicine, are in desperate need of our skills," added Mohamed. "If we were let in, we could save lots of lives."

According to Al-Bulk, security forces on the Egyptian side of the Rafah crossing are leaving nothing to chance. "Police forces in Rafah and Al-Arish have been beefed up substantially since the Israeli campaign began," he said. "And they have orders to fire on anyone attempting to breach the border." "

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