Rafiah: PA Intransigence and Madison Neutrality

The beginning of another refugee crisis? The PA is refusing to allow 2,000 Arab residents of PA-controlled Rafiah to return to their homes, preferring that they remain stuck in Egypt.

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, | updated: 14:02

The beginning of another refugee crisis? The PA is refusing to allow 2,000 Arab residents of PA-controlled Rafiah to return to their homes, preferring that they remain stuck in Egypt. The background of this harsh decision is that Israel, because of security considerations and terrorist warnings, has closed the Rafiah crossing, offering an alternative route instead. The Palestinian Authority refuses to allow the stranded people to use it.

IDF Maj.-Gen. Yosef Mishlav, Coordinator of Government Activities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, opened the Nitzana border crossing, some 40 kilometers to the south, to the Arab residents as a humanitarian gesture. The PA, however, has decided to block this initiative and is preventing them from entering the Gaza Strip. They are currently waiting on the Egyptian side of the Rafiah crossing. Asked about their status this morning, an IDF spokesman confirmed that as far as he knew, no Egyptians had offered to put them up for the Sabbath.

In other Rafiah news, the city of Madison, Wisconsin has turned down a proposal to become a sister city to the PA's arms-smuggling center. "After hours of impassioned debate, charges of McCarthyism and counter-charges of anti-Semitism, the City Council decided early Wednesday not to enter into a sister-city relationship with Rafiah," reported the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Madison's city council voted 9-8 in favor of the proposal, but did not accord it the minimum 11 votes required for passage. Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz had promised to veto the resolution had it passed, saying, "It's really not up to us to take a position on Middle East policies."

In still more Rafiah news, IDF forces completed the destruction of a two-shaft arms-smuggling tunnel they discovered on Wednesday night. The tunnels led from Egypt into the PA-controlled city, with one shaft ending under an Arab civilian structure. Arab attackers activated several explosive devices at IDF forces during the tunnels search operation. Seventeen weapons-smuggling tunnels have been uncovered since the beginning of 2004, and a total of some 90 tunnels have been found since the beginning of the current war in September 2000.