Palestinians urge Egypt not to surrender pilgrims to Israel


Rafah : Thousands of Palestinian citizens have demonstrated at the Palestinian side of the Rafah terminal, urging Egypt to allow Palestinian Hajj pilgrims back home through the terminal and not to surrender them to Israel.

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Around 2,100 Palestinian pilgrims, were stranded in the vessels that transported them from Jordan after Egypt denied them entry into its territories although they traveled to Makka from Gaza Strip via Egypt through the Rafah terminal.

Signs of anger and tension appeared on faces of the demonstrators and relatives of the pilgrims, but PA security police in Gaza and PA officials urged them to keep it calm and not to approach the borders.

“It is not in our plan to harm Egypt’s national security but we came here to send a clear message to our elder sister Egypt that Egypt’s security is part of our security and it concerns us very much as we will not allow any one to threaten Egypt’s borders”, said former PA minister and leading Hamas politician Dr. Atallah Abu Al-Sabah as he addressed the angry Palestinian masses.

He also paid tribute to Egyptian people and the Egyptian army that he said had sacrificed a lot for Palestine, describing Egypt as “the lung of the Palestinian people in Gaza to breathe through”.

“We are full of hope that the Egyptian government and president Husni Mubarak will not surrender our pilgrims to Israel, and we are full of hope that they will open the terminal to allow the pilgrims back home unharmed”, Sabah furthermore affirmed.

He also called on Jordan’s monarch and the Arab League to take a historic stand in solving the pilgrims’ crises favorably and to help the pilgrims back home immediately.

“If our pilgrims remained stranded in the sea for longer time, then they could be victims of cold, hunger, and thirst” Sabah warned.

For its part, Hamas’s bloc in the PLC affirmed the right of the Palestinian pilgrims to return home through the Rafah terminal, describing that right as “natural” and must not be affected by political disputes in the region.

“As we in the change and reform bloc deplore such unjust stand against our Palestinian pilgrims, we hold Arab countries fully responsible for the safety and life of those stranded Palestinians who are left without food, water, or medicine in extremely difficult conditions that could jeopardize their lives”, MP Yahya Mousa asserted in a press conference he held in Gaza.

The Hamas lawmaker also accused PA chief Mahmoud Abbas of conniving to keep the terminal closed before the pilgrims, highlighting that the legitimate PA government under the duly elected premier Ismael Haneyya was and still is ready to coordinate with Egypt in operating the crossing point.

“Forcing the pilgrims to pass through crossing points controlled by Israel would mean they will be subjected to humiliation that, if happened, would be an insult to the Arab regimes”, Mousa confirmed.