In Sheikh Zweyyid, a town 15km away from the Rafah border Mostafa Singer, teacher and journalist told me that the last two times the border was breached was in coordination between Hamas and the Egyptian authorities.
38 days prior to the incident in January 2008 the journalist received word from Fatah officers being housed in Egyptian military camps that the border would be toppled. Despite this prior information the governorate of Northern Sinai was far from prepared for the flow of people following the border opening.
“When the border was breached in 2007 Rafah, Sheikh Zweyyid and Arish ran out of water and prices tripled… many Palestinians were sleeping in the streets,” Singer said, “in [Egyptian] Rafah Hamas members were guiding traffic in the streets” in order to restore some order.
According to Singer four days before Israel’s latest military attacks the governor of Northern Sinai met with local leaders, heads of schools, youth organizations and hospitals to prepare for mobilization. At a monthly meeting on January 20th the governor furthermore coordinated efforts for emigration of Palestinian refugees to the region.
Near the hospital in Rafah the Egyptian army set up a camp of tents soon after the Israeli military onslaught began. I received reports that other such camps existed within closed off Egyptian military compounds. Egyptian authorities have given no official explanation as to why the tents are there.
Khalil Alniss, head of Justice for Gaza, an NGO that coordinates humanitarian assistance into Gaza, is based in the area. Alniss believes the tents may be used to house fleeing Palestinian refugees. In the Egyptian town of Rafah Om Muhammed said, “if they open the border they are welcome, if they need to come then let them come.”