Ma'an News Agency
January 31, 2011 - 1:00am

Egyptian authorities have closed the crossing with the Gaza Strip indefinitely as its army deploys in the northern Sinai, a Ma'an correspondent said Sunday.

Egyptian security contacted officials in Gaza to check up on the situation along the Rafah border, and Hamas authorities confirmed that large numbers of security officers were deployed at the crossing.

Authorities in Gaza also confirmed that strict instructions were given to smugglers telling them all tunnels would remain closed to ensure no Palestinians in Gaza were able to enter Egypt.

Gaza border official Ghazi Hamad said Rafah would be closed Sunday in both directions.

“Egyptian officials informed the crossing department in Gaza,” Hamad said highlighting that the terminal could remain closed for several days. He called on the Egyptian authorities to keep the crossing open “because closure harms passengers, especially those who need to travel to Egypt for medical treatment.”

Hamad pointed out that on Thursday and Wednesday, the Rafah crossing operated normally as about 500 people left to Egypt and 200 arrived in Gaza.

Egypt had opened Rafah permanently (five days a week) on June 2010 following an Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla. Before that, the crossing had been closed for three years.

Meanwhile crowds of protesters began massing in central Egypt for a sixth day of angry revolt against Hosni Mubarak's regime, with over 100 already dead in protests demanding the veteran president quit.

Around 200 civilians spent the night on the central Tahrir square, the epicenter of protests since Tuesday, surrounded by army tanks although troops took no action against those breaking a night-time curfew.

More people began arriving on the square early Sunday, normally the start of the working week in Cairo, with a man waving an Egyptian flag as a military helicopter circled overhead.

Groups of club-carrying vigilantes slowly left the streets that they had been protecting from rampant looting overnight amid growing insecurity as the Arab world's most populous nation faced an uncertain future.

Youths handed over to the army those they suspected of looting, with the police that has been fighting running battles with stone-throwing protesters in recent days hardly visible.

Many petrol stations are now running out of fuel, motorists said, and many bank cash machines have either been looted or are no longer working. Egyptian banks and the stock exchange have been ordered closed on Sunday.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017