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Archive for Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Storekeepers weary of Palestinian influx

January 30, 2008

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— Egyptian shopkeeper Safwat Hammad's shelves are empty and he is frustrated over the influx of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who crossed the breached border with Gaza in the past week.

Hammad and many other residents of Egyptian towns along the Gaza border are increasingly disgruntled, not only with the Gazans and their Hamas rulers but with their own government. They are warning that chaos is brewing and demanding the crisis be resolved quickly.

Hamas militants blew the border open Jan. 23 to release the pressure of a six-month Israeli blockade of Gaza. Egypt has since been struggling to regain control of it.

For seven days, Palestinians have flooded unchecked into Egypt, buying food, fuel and supplies made scarce in Gaza by the long closures.

On the Egyptian side of Rafah, a town that the border had divided, many gas stations have run out of fuel and grocery stores are short on food.

Hammad, 26, said he restocked his store twice this week but ran out of items to sell Tuesday.

"They are buying everything," he said of the Palestinians. "God forbid, they will also buy the air and we will not be able to breathe."

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