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(Ismael Mohamad / United Press International)

Warning of humanitarian catastrophe as Egypt tightens siege of Gaza

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Palestinian security guards stand near an Egypt watch tower at the Gaza-Egypt border, 5 July.

(Eyad Al Baba / APA images)

An Egyptian general has said that President Muhammad Morsi, who was overthrown by the army on Wednesday, may be charged by the military with “collaborating” with the Palestinian resistance group Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Meanwhile, urgent action is needed to avoid a looming humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza, a human rights group warned today, as the political crisis in neighboring Egypt deepens.

Closing Rafah, blaming Palestinians for Egypt’s problems

Earlier today, Egyptian authorities shut down the Rafah crossing, the only route to the outside world for the vast majority of Palestinians in Gaza. The closure came after reported attacks on several Egyptian army checkpoints and posts in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula.

Egyptian authorities and media have routinely blamed such attacks on Palestinians or on Hamas, without any evidence, and Egypt has habitually imposed collective punishments by closing Rafah.

General says Morsi “collaborated” with Hamas

In a striking example today, Brigadier General (Ret.) Ayman Salama, who teaches at Cairo’s Military Academy, told the BBC World Service Newshour that part of the reason the army had overthrown Morsi was his alleged collaboration with Hamas against Egypt.

Salama asserted there was a Palestinian role an attack that killed 16 Egyptian border guards in Sinai last August, and claimed that Morsi had helped to cover it up. Salama said army brass viewed Morsi’s main shortcomings as being related to:

national security in Sinai and with the tunnels coming from the jihadists extremists and Hamas elements, personnel, from Gaza Strip into Sinai leading to the killing in just five minutes of 16 of the guard’s troops. And the president refused the army to release the names after the investigation … Probably there will be military charges against the deposed president being the supreme commander of the Egyptian army forces.

The BBC host asked Salama: “You’re saying that the main offense from the army’s point of view was that President Morsi was too helpful to Hamas?”

Salama responded: “criminally speaking, he [Morsi] threatened the national and military highest security interests of the army and the whole nation by actually collaborating to Hamas against the interests of the army … especially in Sinai.”

Salama added that the “military asked the president many times to give them orders, directives to block, to shut off all tunnels, all tunnels with Gaza but the president claimed that there have been many humanitarian actually sympathies with our neighbors in Hamas in Gaza to let them have a breath against the Israeli blockade.”

Salama reaffirmed the “mutual and important cooperation in intelligence and security between the Egyptian army and the Israeli defense army.”

Possible “catastrophe” as Egypt cracks down

Geneva-based human rights organization Euro-Mid said in a statement today that it “is alarmed by the deteriorating humanitarian conditions in Gaza which is expected to exacerbate in the light of the ongoing political crisis in Egypt, unless the international community intervene sooner to provide Gaza with the needed relief, and avoid further repercussions on 1.7 million people.”

Euro-Mid added that:

the recent Egyptian security restrictions in the border areas led to shut tunnels that are described as the only main lifeline to provide Gaza with fuel supplies, commodities, and goods that alleviate impacts of the Israeli siege which was imposed on the strip seven years ago. Eyewitnesses told the Euro-Mid that Egyptian Army bulldozers destroyed number of tunnels that are used to transport goods.

The human rights organization noted that the ongoing gas shortage reached an alarming level, warned of a real catastrophic situation within hours in public hospitals and health centers, which currently lead to reduction in some ambulance services, except in emergencies.

The tightening siege on the Egyptian border comes amid new restrictions by Israel that have led to severe shortages of gas for cooking and heating, affecting businesses, agricultural production and health services.

Israel’s tight restrictions on people and goods continue to devastate the economy.

Egypt gas crisis disappears mysteriously

In the days before the 30 June protests and the subsequent military coup, long lines formed at gasoline stations in Cairo amid an apparent fuel shortage. But the crisis disappeared rapidly once the coup had taken place, as journalist Evan Hill in Cairo wryly observed:

The rapid disappearance of the fuel crisis within Egypt has led to speculation on social media that it may have been deliberately engineered to feed unrest and dissatisfaction with the Morsi government in the days before its overthrow.

To the extent that Brigadier General Salama’s thinking reflects the outlook of the Egyptian army, which is now firmly in charge of the country, it presages even tougher times ahead for Palestinians in Gaza.

Comments

Are we forgetting about all the tunnels -- some with homes on top of them -- that Morsi bombed, upon his election?

Well, actually the army destroyed the tunnels then. And is destroying them now. Because the army is calling the shots. And the US is pulling the strings. It isnt who sits in the Presidents office that makes the difference, it is who controls the state and in whose interests they do it. Two years of pantomime revolution on the streets has made no difference to any of that. Yet.

That's true. Which begs the question; for whom might Morsi not have been anti-Palestinian enough?
The Generals? Do they simply see it as in the best interest of Egypt to apply more pressure to Hamas? Why?
To cement their hold on power by deepening their alliance with US and Israel?

So apparently the many millions the US sends the Egyptian army has finally shown up as support for Israel and its closure on Gaza by getting rid of the tunnels. We, the US taxpayer, are paying for our government to bribe Egypt's army to aid apartheid Israel. Great! Makes me sick!

Agree with you. Indirectly whole burden of Arab crisis are on Arab and US-tax Payers jointly. Because people from both regions do not dare to ask their governments and armies policies. Where they spend that money came from common citizens, who never asks for all this or that kind of proxy wars around the Globe.

That's for those of you that may be still be laboring under the illusion that the Egyptian Army isn't under the control of the U.S. and Israel

One would have to follow the money from Washington/CIA/Tel Aviv to see how the "security agreements" were implemented.

There is no excuse for any nation to support Zionist hate , murder and apartheid.

Sure, and the Egyptian Army follows the money too. And the Egyptian people are dancing with the devil. Although the army they see appears to them more interested in steady paychecks and occasional kickbacks, the Generals are seriously interested in their survival and aren't the least bit interested in their welfare.
But simply positing that control over the army from outside can be traced by following the money isn't provable if for no other reason than plausible deniability.
There are still too many contradictions in the Egyptian street, US Congressional posturing and Obama's regional play calling to build a convincing case against the army. For instance, Morsi's victory was recognized as democratic by Obama, how will he reconcile that with his pattern of support for Arab Spring revolt. The contemptible conservative congress is actually leaning against the coup, for now. Is that simply because it puts Obama in a tougher spot and they didn't wait to hear from William Kristol and Elliott Abrams? Egyptians love the Army today but...

Of course it is wrong for Egypt to shut the border and hard Palestinians - who they have professed to help. But some of these comments ... blaming Israel for Egypt's depraved actions? Egypt's government is doing what it perceives is in its best interest - they are supporting their own hate, murder and discrimination.

Dan, by Egypt's government you must mean the army and the army's perceived interests have everything to do with the aid it receives from the US, to adhere to the treaty with Israel, which means satisfying Israel's perceived interests, which are not at all those of the Palestinians... to date.