Egyptian military checkpoint at Rafah Crossing
In the days that protests calling for unification between Hamas and Fatah broke out across West Bank and Gaza, missiles struck Gaza City and machine gun fire regularly rang out along the Rafah crossing, myself and photographer Jess Hurd spent several days trying to get from Egypt into the Gaza Strip, to no avail.
The main point of contention for Egypt, we were told, was the fear of anyone (especially foreign journalists) crossing the border, being killed by the Israeli military and drawing Egypt further into an already tense stand-off.
Whilst stuck on the border east Gaza City was struck with missiles by F16 jets, killing at least two people, a fisherman was shot by naval forces on the coast and agricultural land in East Rafah was occupied.
Scores of people had been killed in tunnel crossings recently and there were even reports that some Egyptian troops had been shot in border skirmishes with the Israeli military. Machine gun fire had become a daily occurrence according to the Bedouin children we spoke with. Anyone who strayed too close to the border was regularly shot at from anonymous grey watch towers peering over from the other side of the wall.
Still, these days stranded in the desert were spent sat around learning about the Bedouins, who had devised their own micro-economy around the border crossing. The women and young girls sold seeds, beans and nuts, the men and boys carried bags and goods from the Egyptian side to the the Palestinian side for one Egyptian pound (10 pence) each way. The most common daily wage in Egypt is 20 pounds (£2). There was also a very lucrative taxi service to Egyptian Rafah, Al Arish and Cairo.
We also learned about the treatment of Bedouins by Mubarak’s police. Extortion, racism, false arrest, arbitrary imprisonment, beatings, torture and murder were all commonplace.So, it came as no surprise to learn all the police were chased out of the Sinai region during the revolution by heavily armed Bedouin, some were killed, and all checkpoints and police stations were burned to the ground.
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