Riots erupt in airport near Egypt-Gaza border; 2 Palestinians injured in clashes

1113.jpgAbout 100 Palestinians smashed doors and windows inside an airport building in this Egypt-Gaza Strip border town early Tuesday after being trapped there for more than a month since the border’s closure, police and one of the rioters said.Dozens of anti-riot police with batons and shields stormed el-Arish airport and clashed with rioters, injuring two of them, one of the rioters, Mohammed Ali, told the Associated Press.

A police official said that more troops have been deployed to the airport after Tuesday’s clashes, fearing more riots and violence. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

An Associated Press reporter was denied entry into the airport Tuesday but saw dozens of riot police deployed outside the building.

The Palestinians, who do not have entry visas for Egypt, were transferred under security supervision to el-Arish airport after first arriving at the Cairo airport from trips abroad.

They had expected to then travel onward to the Gaza Strip, but they have been stuck in the el-Arish airport since Egypt sealed off its border with Gaza after the militant Palestinian Hamas took over Gaza last month.

The Palestinians, mostly students and government employees, trapped inside the airport have complained of increasingly desperate living conditions.

“We are living in a 100 square meters. There are no services. Water is salty and masses of mosquitoes attack us every night,” Ali told the AP on the telephone early Tuesday.

“We have lost our minds. We broke the windows, the palm trees (inside the airport), the doors and everything around us in the airport,” he added.

Along with the 100 Palestinian in el-Arish airport, there are about 4,000 other Palestinians stranded on Egypt’s side of the Gaza border.

Palestinians stuck in the eastern Sinai Peninsula say they are having trouble finding food and shelter — shortages they blame on local authorities and Palestinian factions indifferent to their plight. A large number lack enough money to pay for lodging and instead are sleeping in mosques and under trees.

The Rafah border terminal has been closed since June 9, the start of the final round of bloody factional fighting between Fatah and Hamas that led to the Islamic group’s takeover of the Gaza Strip.

Egypt has said it is ruling out opening the border anytime soon, the official MENA news agency reported, a move intended to put pressure on Hamas to resolve its current conflict with Fatah.

Egyptian officials are worried a Hamas-ruled Gaza on its borders could bolster Egypt’s own banned Islamic opposition, the Muslim Brotherhood, and spawn terror attacks.

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