(IsraelNN.com) Hundreds of thousands of PA Arabs crossed the Gaza-Egypt border Wednesday after masked Hamas men bombed the border fence in at least 15 locations. 350,000 crossed to Egypt, the United Nations says.
Almost the entire metal border fence has been torn down. Some of the Gazans crossed back into Gaza after buying gas, cigarettes and other supplies in the Egyptian side of the town of Rafiah, which straddles the border. Many, however, continued to el-Arish, where they will apparently stay as refugees. Egyptian and Hamas police stood aside as bulldozers arrived to complete the demolition of the wall.
Initial reports pointed to "unknown gunmen," but A-Shark Al-Awsat, a leading Arabic paper, says Hamas security forces were involved in the demolition.
Israel relinquished control of the Gaza-Egyptian border, known as the Philadelphi Route, following the 2005 Disengagement, at the urging of the US and with promises that European Union observers would monitor the border. Since then, it has stayed open for months at a time.
More than fifty women were wounded by Egyptian gunfire Tuesday as an all-female riot broke out on the Gaza side of the crossing and the women tried to break through to Egypt. The Egyptians began with water-cannons but shooting broke out eventually; it is unclear who shot first, the Egyptian police or the Hamas men circulating in the crowd.
Israel has backed down from placing a full blockade on Gaza, delivering butane gas for cooking and diesel fuel for Gaza’s power plant, as well as medicines. Despite the delivery, more than 20 rockets were fired at Israeli towns in the western Negev Tuesday.
Fatah in Gaza said it was behind the latest rocket-fire and declared it would continue to fire rockets at Israel. Fatah’s chief, PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, is the recipient of billions of dollars in pledges from the international community, as well as US efforts to fund and train his armed forces.