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Palestinians pour into Egypt

Thousands of Palestinians have poured into Egypt to stock up on food and fuel in short supply due to an Israeli blockade.

world Updated: Jan 23, 2008 23:45 IST

Palestinian militants blew up part of the wall between Gaza and Egypt on Wednesday, and tens of thousands of Palestinians poured into Egypt to stock up on food and fuel in short supply due to an Israeli blockade.

Residents of the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah said a group of militants, including members of Hamas, set off a series of explosions overnight, demolishing about 200 metres of the border wall. Hamas denied involvement.

Tens of thousands of Palestinians thronged into Egyptian territory, some on donkey carts and carrying luggage to bring consumer goods and fuel back into the Hamas-run territory.

“I have bought everything I need for the house for months. I have bought food, cigarettes and even two gallons of diesel for my car,” said Mohammed Saeed, who was pushing a trolley.

Egyptian riot police sent to reinforce the border mainly stood aside and let the Palestinians through, witnesses said.

“Palestinian gunmen created at least 15 openings in the wall between Egypt and Gaza, and a Palestinian bulldozer was demolishing large parts of it and is still working to destroy the rest of the wall,” an Egyptian security source said.

Israel closed its borders with the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip last week, cutting fuel supplies to the territory's main power plant and petrol stations and stopping aid shipments that includE food and other humanitarian supplies.

Israel said the blockade was aimed to make Palestinian militants stop firing rockets into southern Israel. The Israeli army says about 250 rockets and mortars have pounded Israel since last week, amid an escalation of violence in which Israeli troops killed more than 30 Palestinians.

The European Union and international agencies have called the closure collective punishment on Gaza's 1.5 million people.

Israel resumed fuel supplies to Gaza's main power plant on Tuesday, offering limited respite from the blockade that had plunged much of the Hamas-ruled territory into darkness.

Gaza has been largely cut off since Hamas Islamists routed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah forces to take over the territory in June.