Jon JensenJune 3, 2010 14:29Updated June 4, 2010 21:35
Egypt breaks its own Gaza blockade
Egypt, a partner with Israel in the crippling Gaza siege, bows to international pressure.
RAFAH, Egypt — Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, a target of public outrage following the deadly weekend raid by Israeli commandos on a Turkish-led aid flotilla, kept the Rafah border crossing with Gaza open Thursday to people and supplies.
Since the May 31 raid, international pressure has mounted on Israel and Egypt to ease the three-year blockade on the Gaza Strip, prompting Cairo's move Tuesday to open the border to Palestinians seeking medical treatment.
High-ranking security officials inside the Rafah border terminal said that more than 500 Palestinians had been allowed to enter Egypt on Wednesday.
The land and sea blockade on Gaza was imposed by Israel in 2007, after the violent takeover of the strip from the Palestinian Authority by Hamas, an Islamic resistance group that had once vowed to “wipe Israel off the map.”
For its part, Egypt has also largely kept the Rafah border crossing sealed, except for the most serious humanitarian cases.
Egypt is one of the largest recipients of American foreign aid, totaling close to $2 billion annually, in part because of its 1979 peace treaty with Israel.
Historically, Egypt has also struggled against Islamic militancy and has seen Hamas, a movement that grew out of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, as something to fear.
But international outrage over the deadly raid on the aid flotilla, which killed nine people including an American citizen of Turkish origin, is testing the Egypt-Israel partnership.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had rejected international criticism over his country's continued blockade on Gaza, reportedly saying that without it, Iran would establish a ''port'' in Gaza for weapons shipments.
Meanwhile, protests continued in Turkey on Thursday. All nine of those killed in the May 31 raids were Turkish, one a dual U.S. citizen, traveling aboard the cruise liner Mavi Marmara. Turkey withdrew its ambassador from Tel Aviv immediately after the raid.
The Israeli Defense Forces defended their actions, and a video allegedly showing those aboard the ship attacking Israeli commandos and throwing one overboard has been released on YouTube.
Earlier this week, downtown Cairo was also rocked by several protests against the blockade of Gaza. The demonstrations saw more than 1,000 Egyptians hurling insults at Mubarak and his government.
Egypt’s Foreign Ministry called the flotilla killings “tragic,” criticizing the “unjust Israeli siege on the Gaza Strip.” But even as the Foreign Ministry’s press statement was released, Egyptian opposition groups had rallied outside the building, denouncing Egypt’s complicity in the blockade while screaming “Down with Mubarak.”
“Until this week, the Egyptian government had been trying to downplay their role in the blockade, especially in the Arab world,” said Diaa Rashwan, an expert at the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, a government-funded think tank. "But after the Israeli flotilla affair, now I think there is a real change in the Egyptian strategy.”
Culled from more than 100,000 submissions, these photos represent the best in photojournalism from the past year.
Wpp 01 paul hansen
Nov. 20, 2012, Gaza City, Palestinian Territories: 2-year-old Suhaib Hijazi and his older brother Muhammad were killed when their house was destroyed by an Israeli missile strike. Their father, Fouad, was also killed and their mother was put in intensive care. Fouad’s brothers carry his children to the mosque for the burial ceremony as his body is carried behind on a stretcher.
- [Paul Hansen, Sweden, Dagens Nyheter/Courtesy]
Wpp 02 emin ozmen
July 31, 2012, Aleppo, Syria: Opposition fighters regularly launched operations to seize government informants after dark. Two informants were captured, declared guilty under interrogation, and tortured throughout the night; tired soldiers had to be replaced so the torture could continue. After 48 hours, the captives were released.
- [Emin Özmen, Turkey/Courtesy]
Wpp 03 fabio bucciarelli
Oct. 10, 2012, Aleppo, Syria: A Free Syrian Army fighter takes position during the clashes against Syrian government forces in Sulemain Halabi district in Aleppo.
- [Fabio Bucciarelli, Italy/ AFP/Courtesy]
Wpp 04 rodrigo abd
March 10, 2012, Idib, Syria: Aida cries while recovering from severe injuries she received when her house was shelled by the Syrian Army. Her husband and two children were fatally wounded during the shelling.
- [Rodrigo Abd, Argentina/ The Associated Press/Courtesy]
Wpp 05 daniel berehulak
March 7, 2012, Rikuzentakata, Japan: Pine trees uprooted during the tsunami lay strewn over the beach. One year later, areas of Japan most impacted by the earthquake and subsequent tsunami that left 15,848 dead and 3,305 missing, continue to struggle. Thousands of people remain living in temporary dwellings. The government faces an uphill battle with the need to dispose of rubble as it works to rebuild economies and livelihoods.
- [Daniel Berehulak, Australia/Getty Images]
Wpp 06 wei seng chen
Feb. 12, 2012, Batu Sangkar, West Sumatra, Indonesia: A jockey, his feet stepped into a harness strapped to the bulls and clutching their tails, shows relief and joy at the end of a dangerous run across rice fields. The Pacu Jawi (bull race) is a popular competition at the end of harvest season keenly contested between villages.
- [Wei Seng Chen, Malaysia//Courtesy]
Wpp 08 jan grarup
Feb. 21, 2012, Mogadishu, Somalia: The Somali basketball association pays armed guards to watch over and protect Suweys and her team when they play. In Mogadishu, the war-torn capital of Somalia, young women risk their lives to play basketball. Suweys, the 19-year-old captain of a women's basketball team, and her friends defy radical Islamist views on women’s rights.
- [Jan Grarup, Denmark, Laif/Courtesy]
Wpp 09 micah albert
Apr. 3, 2012, Nairobi, Kenya: Pausing in the rain, a woman working as a trash picker at the 30-acre dump, which literally spills into households of 1 million people living in nearby slums, wishes she had more time to look at the books she comes across. She even likes the industrial parts catalogs. “It gives me something else to do in the day besides picking [trash],” she said.
- [Micah Albert, USA/ Redux Images/Courtesy]
Wpp 10 maika elan
June 22, 2012, Da Nang, Vietnam: Phan Thi Thuy Vy and Dang Thi Bich Bay, who have been together for one year, watch television to relax after studying at school. Vietnam has historically been unwelcoming to same-sex relationships. But its Communist government is considering recognizing same-sex marriage, a move that would make it the first Asian country to do so, despite past human rights issues and a long-standing stigma.
- [Maika Elan, Vietnam, Most/Courtesy]
Wpp 11 soren bidstrup
July 8, 2012, Jeselo, Italy: A family prepares to go camping on a summer holiday, but someone is up too early.
- [Søren Bidstrup, Denmark, Berlingske/Courtesy]
Wpp 12 fausto podavini
June 1, 2010, Rome, Italy: Despite her husband's life-threatening disease, Mirella devoted her life to assisting Luigi, trying to be positive and reassuring, looking after him with intense love and respect. Mirella, 71, spent 43 years of her life with the only person she loved, with all of life's difficulties, laughter, and beautiful moments. But over the last six years things changed: Mirella lived with her husband Luigi’s illness, Alzheimer’s, and devoted her life to him as his caregiver.
- [Fausto Podavini, Italy/Courtesy]
Wpp 14 ananda van der pluijm
Feb. 15, 2011, Tilburg, the Netherlands: After living with his father for 10 years and staying in a youth shelter, Martin, 18, returned home two years ago to live with his mother. He arrived with some clothes in a bag and no work or degree.
- [Ananda van der Pluijm, The Netherlands/Courtesy]
Wpp 17 christian ziegler
Nov. 16, 2012, Black Mountain Road, Australia: The endangered Southern Cassowary feeds on the fruit of the Blue Quandang tree. Cassowaries are a keystone species in northern Australian rainforests because of their ability to carry so many big seeds such long distances.
- [Christian Ziegler, Germany, National Geographic Magazine/Courtesy]
Wpp 18 paul nicklen
Nov. 18, 2011, Ross Sea, Antarctica: New science shows that Emperor Penguins are capable of tripling their swimming speed by releasing millions of bubbles from their feathers. These bubbles reduce the friction between their feathers and the icy seawater, allowing them to accelerate in the water. They use speeds of up to 30 kilometers per hour to avoid leopard seals and to launch themselves up onto the ice.
- [Paul Nicklen, Canada, National Geographic magazine/Courtesy]