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Hamas militants blow up borders with Egypt
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Palestinian militants from Hamas' armed wing blew up fence walls at the borders between the southern Gaza Strip and Egypt on Wednesday morning, which allowed thousands of Gazans to flock into the Egyptian side, witnesses and security sources said.

Local witnesses told Xinhua that they also saw bulldozers starting to remove barbed wires on the borders as well as the rubbles of the cement and blocks fence after more than 15 big holes were opened in the fence wall.

Palestinian security sources said that thousands of Gaza Strip residents crossed into Egypt to buy their needs of basic foods, medicines, clothes and cigarettes.

Eyewitnesses said that Hamas militants placed bombs and explosives devices on the fence of the borders between Rafah town in southern Gaza Strip and Egypt, and blew them up.

"I heard several huge explosions at predawn, and I thought the Israeli army is entering Rafah, but after that we realized that Hamas militants blew up the fence of the borders," Ziad Qishtta, resident of Rafah town, told Xinhua.

The residents said that parts of the fence on the borders was completely destroyed, adding that more than 15 holes were opened into the fence.

The security sources said that Hamas militants and Egyptian security forces traded fire for a while, but no injuries were reported.

Thousands of Egyptian security forces men gathered in the area to prevent more chaos on the borders.

It was the second time in two years that Palestinians destroy the fence wall at the borders with Egypt. In September 2005 after Israel pulled out from the Gaza Strip, thousands Gazans crossed into Egypt.

The border wall tear-down came after Israel's decision to slightly ease the blockade against the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, which is home to nearly 1.5 million residents.

The coastal enclave heavily depends on outside aid inflow of almost everything, from basic foodstuffs to medicine.

But on January 17, Israel decided to tighten a siege that has been imposed on Gaza since mid-June last year and close all crossings leading to Gaza.

Since then, Israel has been barring fuels and basic food products from reaching the Gaza Strip, in retaliation to ongoing makeshift rocket attacks carried out by Palestinian militants from Gaza against Israel.

Israel's tightened siege has pushed the strip to the brink of a humanitarian crisis.

On Tuesday morning, the Gaza Strip received five fuel tankers, which temporarily eased a humanitarian crisis emerging after five days of crossing closure by Israel.

Four of the tankers were loaded with diesel to go to Gaza's sole power station and the fifth carried cooking gas, Gaza officials said, adding that the four tanks of fuel could barely keep the power plant working for less than one week.

The lack of fuel had forced Gaza's only power plant to shut down on Sunday, leaving the Hamas-run enclave dependant on some 140 megawatts of electricity that Israel and Egypt provide.

Earlier on Monday evening, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak decided to slightly ease the siege on Gaza and to allow medical supplies and a minimal amount of diesel fuel for the power plant in Gaza.

(Xinhua News Agency January 23, 2008)

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