(AFP) – Dec 29, 2008
RAFAH, Egypt (AFP) — Wounded Palestinians began crossing through the Rafah border post with Egypt on Monday as medical aid for the devastated Gaza Strip went in the other direction, an AFP correspondent reported.
By evening, 22 patients, some in critical condition, had crossed at the only Gaza exit point which does not lead to Israel, a security official at the crossing told AFP.
Some 30 wounded Palestinians had been due to enter Egypt during the day.
Egyptian lorries loaded with medicines moved in early afternoon to the Egyptian side of the Rafah terminal to allow the transfer of their cargoes to Palestinian vehicles.
Trucks carrying aid sent by Qatar and Libya were also able to transfer their loads.
The Egyptian government issued a statement saying it was "ready to allow the passage of any food or medical aid for the Gaza Strip coming from abroad."
The Palestinian ambassador in Cairo, Nabil Amr, said Saudi Arabia had sent two fully equipped hospital aircraft to tend the wounded.
The oil-rich kingdom also sent aid to Egypt which would "immediately" be passed on to Gaza, an Egyptian official told MENA news agency.
Cairo opened the Rafah border point on Saturday on the first day of the massive Israeli air operation against the Hamas movement, which controls the impoverished Palestinian territory.
Hamas officials at the crossing said they were drawing up lists of wounded whose condition allowed them to be safely transported.
Fathi Abu Maghli, Palestinian Authority health minister, told reporters on the Egypt side of the frontier that critically wounded patients had to be stabilised before they could be sent to Egypt.
"The main difficulty was stabilising the patients," said Abu Maghli, who belongs to the West Bank government of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.
Egypt closed the crossing on Sunday evening after about 200 Palestinians tried to climb over the border wall into Egypt -- with dozens succeeding -- and after an Egyptian border guard was shot dead.
Another guard was wounded by shots fired from the Gaza Strip.
Egyptian police detained 46 Gazans who had crossed on Sunday and were holding them in Rafah, a security official said.
A Hamas official told AFP the ambulances waited near the crossing for two hours on Sunday evening before Egyptian guards turned them back because of the gunfight.
Israeli air strikes continued relentlessly on Monday, with Gaza medics putting the number of Palestinians killed so far in the bombardments at well over 340 with more than 1,550 wounded.
Demonstrations have been held across the Middle East against the Israeli air raids, with many protesters also railing against Egypt for not opening its Gaza border to deliveries of basic supplies and civilians wishing to flee the air raids.
Thousands demonstrated in central Cairo on Monday in protest at the Israeli bombardment.
"Egypt must move to rescue the besieged Palestinians from Israeli terrorism, and the (Arab regimes) complicity," Mahdi Akef, head of the opposition Muslim Brotherhood movement, said at the rally.
In Beirut on Sunday, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah urged Egyptians in their "millions" to take to the streets to force a change in government policy.
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