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Thursday, November 15, 2012
Update: Egypt closes Rafah crossing

Update: Egypt closes Rafah crossing
Al-Masry Al-Youm Egypt Independent Thu, 15/11/2012 - 13:35
http://www.egyptindependent.com/news/update-egypt-closes-rafah-crossing

Egyptian authorities closed the Rafah border crossing after the Israeli
occupation forces targeted the Palestinian side of the crossing with two
missiles that exploded next to it. Israeli forces have escalated attacks on
the border and targeted the tunnels on the Egyptian border with the Gaza
Strip.

The city of Rafah witnessed a state of panic due to the explosions, with
many shops and businesses closing early.

Earlier on Thursday evening Presidential Spokesperson Yasser Ali announced
that President Mohamed Morsy has instructed Prime Minister Hesham Qandil to
head a high-level delegation to the Gaza Strip on Friday.

Qandil's visit to Gaza will emphasize Egypt's solidarity with the people of
Gaza in the face of brutal Israeli aggression, Ali said, as well as meet the
urgent needs of the Palestinian people.

“The Egyptian leadership informed us that Prime Minister Hesham Qandil will
visit Gaza tomorrow, accompanied by a number of ministers. We welcome this
visit and appreciate this courageous stand,? Hamas spokesperson Taher
al-Nunu told AFP.

The visit “confirms the support of the Egyptian leadership, government, and
people for the Palestinian people in the shadow of the Israeli war against
them in Gaza,? he added, saying Qandil would meet Hamas premier Ismail
Haniyeh.

The Health Ministry announced on Thursday the formation of a joint central
operations room in collaboration with the Pharmacists and Doctors
Syndicates, to treat injured Palestinians in Gaza.

Amgad Amin of the Pharmacists Syndicate in Cairo told Al-Masry Al-Youm that
head of the syndicate Mohamed Abdel Gawad is now in the Gaza Strip leading a
delegation of pharmacists.

Israeli media outlets reported that Egypt's ambassador to Israel Atef Salem
al-Ahl left Tel Aviv on Thursday. Cairo recalled the ambassador on Wednesday
after a series of Israeli air strikes on Gaza killed Jabari and others,
President Mohamed Morsy's spokesperson said in a terse statement. Ahmed
al-Helali, a member of the International Union for Muslim Scholars, told
Al-Masry Al-Youm that it was essential that the Egyptian ambassador not
return to Israel as long as the attacks continue. He called on all
revolutionary forces to unite to support Palestinian resistance.

Meanwhile, Israeli Ambassador to Egypt Yaakov Amitai left Cairo on Wednesday
after being summoned by the Egyptian foreign ministry, state-run Al-Ahram
newspaper reported. However, Reuters quoted an Israeli diplomat in Jerusalem
on Wednesday as saying that Amitai had returned to Israel before Tel Aviv
launched its assault on the Gaza Strip. 



Egypt’s official news agency MENA quoted an informed diplomatic source as
saying that contrary to several reports, Egypt did not ask the Israeli
ambassador to leave. Over the last year, the ambassador usually spends the
weekend in Israel, leaving on Thursday and returning on Sunday. He said it
is not certain whether he will return on Sunday or not.

He went on to say that there are several steps Egypt can take in response to
the brutal aggression on Gaza.

“It may be sufficient to summon the ambassador from Tel Aviv for
consultation, a step less severe than withdrawing him,? he said. “The
difference is when you summon the ambassador for consultation, it will be
for a limited period and it is known that he will return within days. But
when you start with withdrawing the ambassador, it means that Egypt has
chosen the strongest option from the beginning.?

If the attack continues and there are more casualties, according to the
diplomat, it will be possible that the Israeli ambassador to Egypt becomes
persona non grata, or is expelled. Both have the same result in legal terms,
he explained, but expulsion would constitute a stronger statement
diplomatically.

The next step, he says, would be to freeze relations. Countries usually
start with freezing economic relations, and this is usually associated with
an escalation before a declaration of war. In this case, the potential
impact on economic relations with the United States must be closely studied.

This is merely theoretical talk about the options available, the diplomatic
source said, stressing that he does not have specific information about what
steps will be taken.

Hundreds of protesters rallied in front of the Arab League in Cairo against
the Israeli assault on Gaza Thursday, chanting slogans and carrying
Palestinian flags, Al-Masry Al-Youm reported.

In televised remarks earlier Thursday, President Mohamed Morsy rejected what
he called Israel's aggression in Gaza, saying it threatened to destabilize
the region, while Cairo called on the US to stop Israel's strikes.

"The Israelis must understand that we do not accept this aggression, which
could lead to instability in the region," Morsy said, as Israeli air forces
pummeled Gaza and militants fired rockets back in a deadly tit for tat.

In an earlier telephone conversation with US Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton, Foreign Minister Mohammed Kamel Amr "called on the United States to
immediately intervene to bring to an end the Israeli aggression against the
Palestinian people in Gaza," the ministry said in a statement.

“As long as the Israeli aggression continues, the situation will worsen in a
way that will make it uncontrollable,? Amr told Clinton late Wednesday.

He called on Washington to "use its contacts with Israel to bring to an end
this aggression."

The Suez Canal Authority has denied reports that it prevented the passage of
Israeli ships according to several news sources.

Egypt, which in 1979 became the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty
with Israel, previously withdrew its ambassador after a Palestinian uprising
that began in 2000, when President Hosni Mubarak was still in power.

Morsy, an Islamist elected in June after Mubarak's overthrow in 2011, has
promised to take a harder line on Israel than his predecessor, who was
accused of doing little to stop the Jewish state's devastating assault on
Gaza in December 2008-January 2009.

Egyptian authorities opened the Rafah border crossing with the Gaza Strip on
Thursday, German news agency DPA reported.

“Work would resume on both sides of the border in order to be ready for the
arrival of any injured Palestinians so they could be transferred to Arish
Public Hospital, which is ready to receive them," a security source told
DPA.

Also on Thursday morning, Major General Mohamed Refaat Shehata, head of the
Egyptian intelligence services, returned to Cairo from Turkey to follow up
on recent developments in Gaza.



Sources told DPA that Shehata arrived from Istanbul on Thursday, cutting his
trip to discuss bilateral cooperation between Egypt and Turkey short. An
Egyptian-mediated ceasefire between Hamas and Israel failed Wednesday
following the Israeli assassination of Ahmed al-Jabary, the commander of
Hamas's Ezzedeen al-Qassam Brigades. 



Shehata is expected to attempt to negotiate a new truce between Israel and
Hamas, as he had played an important role in securing the original
ceasefire. Cairo often plays a mediator role between Israel and Hamas
whenever violence erupts between the two sides.

Tight security measures have been taken in South Sinai Governorate,
particularly focusing on the main roads entering the area and on the border
regions of Taba and Negev, in anticipation of any jihadist elements attempts
to attack Israeli tourists.

An official source in Taba land port said that Israeli tourists have
increasingly chosen not to holiday in Taba anyway, despite tourist resort
offers. Sami Salman, head of the Association of Taba and Nuweiba Investors,
said the current events will affect tourism in all of Sinai.

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