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Egypt says siege 'failure,' opens Rafah indefinitely

June 7, 2010 6:24 P.M. (Updated: June 9, 2010 9:10 A.M.)
Gaza - Ma'an - An Egyptian security official declared the blockade on Gaza a failure and announced its borders indefinitely open, the Associated Press reported on Monday, as Syria's President Bashar Al-Assad said he would "stand by every decision" Turkey made to lift the siege.

Egypt opened its crossing with Gaza shortly after a deadly Israeli attack on an aid fleet en route to the coastal enclave, which left at least nine activists dead.

Palestinian officials called on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to open the sole border indefinitely, as Gaza residents remained stranded on either side of the terminal, awaiting Cairo's green light to travel.

Cairo's decision comes after US Vice President Joe Biden met with Mubarak in Sharm Ash-Sheikh to discuss ways to partially lift the blockade, as humanitarian groups in Gaza point to increased food insecurity, the destruction of the fishing and farming industry as a result of the siege, and the un-repaired damage caused to homes and vital infrastructure by Israel nearly 16 months ago.

Palestinian crossing liaison chief Salam Barakeh told Ma'an that both sides were coordinating to ensure the Rafah crossing remained open "until further notice," as Gaza residents stranded on either side transit for seventh consecutive day.

Israel imposed a blockade on the coastal enclave shortly after Hamas' takeover in 2007, which saw Egypt further restrict Palestinian movement, operating the Rafah crossing on an ad hoc basis, largely under US pressure as brief openings saw floods of Gaza residents breach the border in search of basic needs in winter 2008.

The acknowledgment of the siege's failure follows global condemnation of Israel's flotilla attack, with governments calling on Israel to end its blockade.

Turkey's premier, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said that his government was prepared to supply the Gaza Strip with "everything it needs," on Monday as he met with Assad in Istanbul, Israeli media reported.

"Palestine and Gaza are a giant prison and this situation cannot continue," Erdogan told reporters during a joint news conference. "We can no longer remain silent and we will not be silent anymore regarding anything having to do with Gaza," the premier was quoted as saying by Israeli daily Haaretz.

Assad said Syria would “support every decision and every step that Turkey requests in order to break the blockade, including support of an international inquiry,” referring to Israel’s rejection of an international probe into the flotilla attack, proposed by the UN.

"We are not just people who talks and issue declarations of condemnation. We are in favor of actions, and we declare that we will," Assad said.

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