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Egyptian authorities forced to burn expired Gaza aid

July 10, 2009 1:28 P.M. (Updated: July 10, 2009 1:28 P.M.)
Bethlehem - Ma'an - Egyptian authorities on Friday said they planned to destroy a large amount of accumulated humanitarian aid bound for Palestinians in Gaza.

The aid expired at the Al-Ouja border crossing between Israel and Egypt while authorities awaited Israel's permission to transfer it through, they said.

The type of aid being transferred is regulated for certain crossing points, and the one for the expired shipment of 680 kg of peanuts, agricultural pesticides and medicine, was designated through one of the Israeli crossings into Gaza.

However Israel never allowed the aid to enter its country and it expired. Authorities said they would set it ablaze in the city of Al-Sheikh Zayed to dispose of it.

It was not the first time that Egyptian authorities disposed of humanitarian and medical aid due to prolonged waits at that particular Israel-Egypt crossing, although a prior agreement between the two countries in theory permits aid into Israel as long as it is bound for the Kerem Shalom crossing, about 4.5 kilometers from Rafah.

For its part, Egypt allows the transfer of certain types of medical aid into Gaza via the Rafah crossing.

Meanwhile, Egyptian authorities unearthed four smuggling tunnels between Egypt and Gaza in the Salah Al-Deeb area, and about 120 kilometers from the border. Authorities there announced they had not arrested anyone, but planned to destroy the tunnels.

In Al-Arish city, authorities seized a warehouse full of goods set to be smuggled into Gaza, the Egyptians said. Some 300 cell phones, clothes, 550 blankets and a number of large vessels filled with food and electrical appliances were seized. A man allegedly running the warehouse was arrested, but his name was not released.

Israel and Egypt have maintained a near-total blockade of the Strip by land and sea since June 2007, and the quantities and types of goods allowed into Gaza are subject to tight restrictions. According to the UN and aid agencies some items, such as construction materials needed to rebuild from the recent war, are completely banned. Exports are also prohibited, and Gaza's 1.5 million residents are banned from traveling.

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