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Cablegate: Gaza Border Update January 26

VZCZCXRO1948
OO RUEHROV
DE RUEHEG #0126 0261432
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 261432Z JAN 08
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7971
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE
RHMFIUU/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL

UNCLAS CAIRO 000126

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL KPAL EG IS
SUBJECT: GAZA BORDER UPDATE JANUARY 26

REF: CAIRO 123

1. Egyptian riot police and armored vehicles continue to
block Gaza cars from entering Egypt. The local press reports
dozens of Egyptian riot police are forming a human barrier to
block two openings through the breached border wall.
Egyptian armored vehicles are also reportedly blocking roads
into and out of the town of Rafah.

2. According to media reports, Egyptian security forces are
forcing Palestinian vehicles to depart Egypt and are
preventing others from entering. Egyptian security forces
are focused on preventing Palestinians from moving from Rafah
to North Sinai governorate capital El Arish, and have ordered
hotel and apartment owners not to rent to Palestinians.

3. An Egyptian security contact reported January 26 that he
understood an order had been given adjusting the rules of
engagement to allow Egyptian security forces to use
additional force, including return fire, and to remove
Palestinians from Egypt and to prevent additional
Palestinians from entering from Gaza. However, the contact
said that Egyptian security forces have not been told to
round up and expel Palestinians, or to close the border,
although he expected this could change in the immediate
future. Also, he was not aware of any plans to increase the
number of Egyptian Border Guard Forces on the border.

4. Local press reports say that returning Palestinians
thanked President Mubarak for "saving us from starvation."
There are further press reports of "masked men" attacking
Egyptian security forces at the border, injuring twelve
(other reports have the number of wounded Egyptian security
forces at three dozen). President Mubarak is quoted as
saying that Egypt is ready to host a Palestinian dialogue in
Cairo and welcomes both Fatah and Hamas. There are
conflicting press reports on the Palestinian responses to
this offer, with some reporting that both sides have welcomed
Mubarak's call for dialogue, while others say that only Hamas
has accepted the offer, and Abbas still refuses to talk to
Hamas.

5. The following is from the Egyptian Minister of Foreign
Affairs website:

Begin quote: The Ministry's spokesman said that the events
that took place at the Egyptian Gaza border and the flow of
thousands of Palestinians into Egypt are a direct result of
the imposed Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip...the
instructions of President Mubarak were clear, allowing the
Palestinians from Gaza to enter Egypt to buy food medicine
and other essential supplies in light of the great ties
linking both peoples, as well as Egypt's consideration of the
very difficult living conditions suffered by the Palestinians
in Gaza, and keeping in mind Egypt's historical
responsibility towards the Palestinians. The spokesman added
that the fact that Egyptian security forces did not interfere
with the Palestinians stems from a solid Egyptian commitment
of embracing the brotherly Palestinian people, particularly
in time of distress and crisis.

The spokesman added that, meanwhile, all sides should
shoulder their responsibilities, and within this framework he
stressed Israel's legal responsibility as an occupation force
under the Fourth Geneva Convention and that of the
authorities responsible for Gaza, which control the internal
situation. The spokesman outlined that Egypt respects its
legal commitments regarding the borders with Gaza, including
the Rafah border crossing, pointing out that Egypt calls upon
the three parties to the agreement regulating movement across
crossing points between the two countries to reconsider the
modalities of reactivating the agreement. End quote.
Ricciardone

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