Gazans stranded in Egypt’s Sinai waiting for travel permission

By Xinhua

Al-Arish, Egypt : “We are waiting for travel permission to Cairo airport to transfer to other places for work or study,” Ziyad Alhendi, a Palestinian in Gaza who crossed into Egypt about a week ago, told Xinhua on Tuesday at a mosque in the city of al-Arish, capital of the Egyptian governorate of North Sinai.

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In the cold and rainy day, some 200 Palestinians, including children, women, aged people and patients, gathered at the small mosque in the Mediterranean coast city of al-Arish, about 40 km away from the Egyptian-Gaza border town of Rafah.

Alhendi, a computer engineer who has his job in Sweden, said “Many people have no enough money to live here in such a cold and rainy day.”

It’s estimated that about 2,000 Palestinians who have been stranded in al-Arish waiting for permission to travel to Cairo and then out of Egypt, witnesses said on Tuesday.

The stranded Palestinians entered Egypt about a week ago as Palestinian militants on last Wednesday blew up holes in the concrete wall separating southern Gaza and Egypt as the hope of lift Gaza siege faded, allowing tens of thousands of Gazans to enter Egypt to purchase necessities of life.

Most of the Palestinians have returned to Gaza after stocking up food and fuel, but a group of them stayed in Egypt’s North Sinai Governorate with the hope of visiting their relatives or coming to places outside the Palestinian territory.

Carrying her passport in hands, a middle-aged woman who gave her name as Eniam Mkdad said she just wanted to go to Germany for medical treatment.

“I have the visa to Germany, but I have to wait for permission of the Egyptian government to travel,” said Mkdad.

Mohamed Khalil, a college student in an Algerian university, has also been trapped here in the Egyptian city.

Khalil said he returned home in the Gaza Strip last May for vacation, but “I have been stranded in Gaza since then as crossing points closed after Hamas’ takeover of Gaza in June 2007.”

“I should graduate from university this year, but I have no way back to Algeria for study,” said Khalil, adding that “Now I came into Egypt waiting for permission of the Egyptian government to allow me to return to Algeria for study.”

Alaa Ouda, a 21-year-old Palestinian girl in black, said she crossed into Egypt with her mother, hoping to visit her father in Saudi Arabia.

“I’m a university student in Gaza,” said Ouda, “but it’s very difficult for us to continue study in such a miserable life in Gaza.”

Due to lack of water and electricity, schools in Gaza have to suspend lessons from time to time, said the Palestinian girl.

Israel has imposed a strict closure on Gaza since Hamas began ruling the enclave last June and tightened the blockade on Jan. 17after Gaza militants stepped up rocket attacks on southern Israel.

Talking about life in Gaza, some Palestinian young men gathering near the mosque said “the life in the Gaza Strip is just like a big prison now.”

“All people in Gaza feel very bad for what happening in the strip because it’s against human rights,” said Alhendi.

Meanwhile, Egyptian border guards continued their efforts on Tuesday to close and control the border with Gaza as most of Palestinian returned Gaza after buying food and fuel.

Egypt is also exerting diplomatic efforts to solve the issue of Gaza border crossings and the humanitarian crisis in the Palestinian enclave.