Tag Archive: Yeman


Pakistan denies army major’s arrest for CIA links

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110615/ap_on_re_mi_ea/cia_pakistan_arrests

By MUNIR AHMED and KIMBERLY DOZIER, Associated Press        Munir Ahmed And Kimberly Dozier, Associated Press–    40 mins ago

ISLAMABAD – The Pakistani army denied Wednesday that one of its majors was among a group of Pakistanis who Western officials say were arrested for feeding the CIA information before the American raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

The New York Times, which first reported the arrests of five Pakistani informants Tuesday, said an army major was detained who copied license plates of cars visiting the al-Qaida chief’s compound in Pakistan in the weeks before the raid.

A Western official in Pakistan confirmed that five Pakistanis who fed information to the CIA before the May 2 operation were arrested by Pakistan’s top intelligence service.

But Pakistani army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas denied an army major was arrested, saying the report was “false and totally baseless.” Neither the army nor Pakistan’s spy agency would confirm or deny the overall report about the detentions.

Noor Bibi

 

The group of detained Pakistanis included the owner of a safe house rented to the CIA to observe bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, an army town not far from the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, a U.S. official said. The owner was detained along with a “handful” of other Pakistanis, said the official.

The Western officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence matters.

The fate of the purported CIA informants who were arrested was unclear, but American officials told the Times that CIA Director Leon Panetta raised the issue when he visited Islamabad last week to meet with Pakistani military and intelligence officers.

U.S.-Pakistani relations have been strained over the raid by Navy SEALs on Pakistani territory, which embarrassed Pakistan’s military, and other issues.

One of the issues that has caused tension between the two countries is U.S. drone missile strikes targeting militants in Pakistan’s tribal region near the Afghan border.

Three attacks on Wednesday targeted suspected militant compounds and a vehicles in south and north Waziristan tribal areas, killing at least 15 alleged insurgents, according to Pakistani intelligence officials. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

Pakistani officials often denounce the strikes in public, even though many are believed to support them in private. That support has been strained in the wake of the bin Laden raid, especially since the strikes are unpopular with the Pakistani public.

Officials said the arrests of the suspected informants was just the latest evidence of the fractured relationship between the two nations.

The Times said that at a closed briefing last week, members of the Senate Intelligence Committee asked Michael Morell, the deputy CIA director, to rate Pakistan’s cooperation with the United States on counterterrorism operations, on a scale of 1 to 10.

“Three,” Morell replied, according to officials familiar with the exchange, the newspaper said.

American officials speaking to the Times cautioned that Morell’s comment was a snapshot of the current relationship and did not represent the Obama administration’s overall assessment.

“We have a strong relationship with our Pakistani counterparts and work through issues when they arise,” Marie Harf, a CIA spokeswoman, told the newspaper. “Director Panetta had productive meetings last week in Islamabad. It’s a crucial partnership, and we will continue to work together in the fight against al-Qaida and other terrorist groups who threaten our country and theirs.”

Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, said in an interview with the Times that the CIA and the Pakistani spy agency “are working out mutually acceptable terms for their cooperation in fighting the menace of terrorism. It is not appropriate for us to get into the details at this stage.”

___

Dozier reported from Washington. Associated Press writer Kathy Gannon in Kabul, Afghanistan, and Ishtiaq Mahsud in Dera Ismail Khan, Pakistan, contributed to this report.

 

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NATO airstrike hits near Gadhafi complex

In this image taken from TV, showing rebel forces on the front line as they repel government troops, Sunday June 12, 2011, in Dafniya, Libya. as fighthttp://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110614/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_libya

By ADAM SCHRECK and HADEEL AL-SHALCHI, Associated Press        Adam Schreck And Hadeel Al-shalchi, Associated Press–    16 mins ago

TRIPOLI, Libya – A NATO airstrike hit an area near Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s compound in the capital again Tuesday, as military leaders voiced concerns about sustaining the operations if the alliance mission drags on.

A column of gray smoke could be seen rising from the area around Gadhafi’s Bab al-Aziziya compound shortly before dawn Tuesday. The concussion from the blast was felt at a hotel where journalists stay in the capital.

It was not clear what was targeted, and Libyan officials didn’t immediately comment.

East of the capital, alliance aircraft have begun dropping leaflets warning government troops to abandon their posts outside Zlitan, which lies just west of the rebel-held port city of Misrata.

Rebel forces have been advancing along the Mediterranean coast toward Zlitan, but say they have been instructed by NATO to withdraw ahead of expected bombing runs to old front lines in Dafniya.

The 3-by-5 inch leaflets intended for forces loyal to Gadhafi carry the NATO symbol and a picture of an Apache attack helicopter and burning tanks on one side. Green Arabic writing warns: “There’s no place to hide. It’s not too late to stop fighting. If you continue to threaten civilians, you will face destruction.” The message on the reverse urges soldiers to “stop and stay away from fighting now.”

An Associated Press reporter near the front line said NATO fighter jets were be heard overhead.

If the rebels take Zlitan, they would be within 85 miles (135 kilometers) of the eastern outskirts of Tripoli. A rebel official said opposition leaders in Zlitan have been meeting with their counterparts in Misrata, but he acknowledged they face challenges in advancing on the city.

“We need the people of Zlitan to push more courageously forward. They are dependent on our movements, but the problem is only a third of that city is with the rebels,” said Ibrahim Beatelmal, a rebel military spokesman in Misrata.

NATO’s nearly three-month air campaign has grounded Gadhafi’s air forces and weakened his military capabilities. But there are signs the pace of operations has put a strain on the trans-Atlantic alliance.

In London, the head of the Royal Navy warned that the British fleet — a key contributor to the Libya mission — will be unable to maintain the pace of operations if the mission drags on until the end of the year.

Adm. Mark Stanhope told reporters Monday he was comfortable with NATO’s decision to extend the Libya operation to the end of September, but said that beyond that the government would need to make “challenging decisions.”

“If we do it longer than six months we will have to reprioritize forces,” he said.

Elsewhere, a senior NATO official said coalition resources would become “critical” if intervention in Libya continues.

“If additional resources are needed, this of course will need a political decision,” said the official, Gen. Stephane Abrial, Supreme Allied Commander Transformation.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates last week publicly rebuked the United States’ European allies and said NATO’s operations in Libya have exposed the alliance’s shortcomings. France and Britain have carried most of the load since NATO began the Libya mission March 31.

In western Libya, Gadhafi’s troops were bombarding opposition forces controlling a key border crossing with Tunisia, according to Omar Hussein, a spokesman for rebels in the western Nafusa mountains.

He said government forces were targeting rebels holding the road that leads toward the Dehiba border crossing. Dehiba is a key supply point for the rebels who wrested control of a string of Nafusa mountain towns from Gadhafi’s forces earlier this month.

NATO, meanwhile, reported it had carried out 62 airstrikes on Libya Monday, hitting military targets in Tripoli and four other cities in Gadhafi controlled territory. The alliance has considerably stepped up the pace of air attacks over tjhe past several days.

___

Al-Shalchi reported from Misrata. Maggie Michael in Cairo and Danica Kirka in London contributed reporting.

 

Syrian forces head for second northern protest town

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110613/wl_nm/us_syria

By Khaled Yacoub Oweis        Khaled Yacoub Oweis–    6 mins ago

AMMAN (Reuters) – Syrian troops pushed toward the northern town of Maarat al-Numaan on the Damascus-Aleppo highway after rounding up hundreds of people in a sweep through villages near Jisr al-Shughour, fleeing residents said.

Late on Monday witnesses said troops and armored vehicles had reached the village of Ahtam, 14 km (nine miles) from Maarat al-Numaan where there have been large protests against President Bashar al-Assad’s rule.

Thousands of residents of Jisr al-Shughour fled to Turkey, some 20 km away, before the army retook the rebellious town on Sunday, the latest step in its drive to crush spreading demands for political reform that pose an unprecedented challenge to Assad’s 11-year rule.

The government says the three-month-old protests are part of a violent conspiracy backed by foreign powers to sow sectarian strife. Syria has banned most foreign correspondents, making it difficult to verify accounts of events.

In measures witnessed in other cities and towns besieged by troops and tanks after protests, fleeing refugees said members of the security forces and Alawite gunmen loyal to Assad, known as ‘shabbiha’ broke into houses and shops in Jisr al-Shughour.

The authorities said 120 security personnel were killed there last week by “armed groups.” Residents and deserting soldiers said those killed were civilians and security personnel who had been killed for refusing to shoot protesters.

Nearly 7,000 Syrians have sought sanctuary in neighbouring Turkey, which has set up four refugee camps for them. Thousands more are living rough in rural areas just inside Syria, where hours of thunderstorms and drenching rain produced miserable conditions.

Syrian rights groups say 1,300 civilians have been killed since the start of the uprising. One group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, says more than 300 soldiers and police have also been killed.

Assad, who inherited power when his father died in 2000, has offered some concessions aimed at appeasing protesters, lifting a 48-year state of emergency and promising a national dialogue, but many activists have dismissed those steps.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, speaking at Argentina’s Foreign Ministry on Monday, said the Syrian government had responded with “horrific attacks” to people’s desire for change and the situation was “very worrisome.”

“I again urge President Assad to allow humanitarian access to affected areas and to allow a Human Rights Council-mandated assessment mission, which on two occasions I have urged him to accept.”

In New York, France’s U.N. envoy appealed to skeptical Brazil on Monday to support a European draft resolution that would condemn Syria for its bloody crackdown on anti-government demonstrators.

Brazil, like India and South Africa, has expressed reservations about the draft resolution prepared by Britain, France, Germany and Portugal. Russia and China have suggested they might veto the text.

The result, U.N. diplomats said, is a deadlock on the 15-nation Security Council. It remains unclear when, and if, the Europeans will put the draft resolution to a vote.

(Additional reporting by Alexandra Hudson in Guvecci, Turkey; Writing by Dominic Evans; Editing by Tim Pearce)

 

In this image taken from TV, showing rebel forces on the front line as they repel government troops, Sunday June 12, 2011, in Dafniya, Libya. as fighthttp://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110613/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_libya

By HADEEL AL-SHALCHI and MAGGIE MICHAEL, Associated Press        Hadeel Al-shalchi And Maggie Michael, Associated Press–    53 mins ago

MISRATA, Libya – Government artillery rained down on rebel forces Monday but failed to stop their advance into key ground west of their stronghold at Libya’s major port. As fighting raged for a fourth day, Germany’s foreign minister paid a surprise visit to the rebel’s de facto capital.

Guido Westerwelle met with officials of the Transitional National Council, telling members of the nascent rebel government that Germany recognized the council as “the legitimate representative of the Libyan people”

That position is similar to that of the United States, which has stopped short of outright diplomatic recognition of the council. The move was, nevertheless, another big diplomatic boost for the rebels and their four-month uprising to end Moammar Gadhafi’s 40-year rule in the oil-rich North African country. Germany refused to participate in the NATO air mission over Libya and withheld support for the no-fly zone.

The rebels control roughly the eastern one-third of Libya as well as Misrata, the country’s major port. The also claim to have taken parts of coastal oil center of Zawiya in the far west. That port city is 18 miles (30 kilometers) west of Tripoli and a prize that would put them in striking distance of the capital. Control of the city also would cut one of Moammar Gadhafi’s last supply routes from Tunisia.

Despite rebel claims, government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said late Sunday that Gadhafi forces had driven off the attackers, and reporters taken to Zawiya saw secure streets and the green national flag flying over a central square. The insurgents, for their part, claimed a high-ranking Gadhafi commander was badly wounded in the fighting.

“The wishful reporting of some journalists that the rebels are gaining more power and more control of some areas is not correct,” he said.

In the major fighting near Misrata on Monday, an Associated Press photographer at the rebel front lines said they had pushed along the Mediterranean Sea to within 6 miles (10 kilometers) of Zlitan, the next city to the west of Misrata. A rebel commander said his forces, using arms seized from government weapons depots and fresh armaments being shipped in from Benghazi, planned to have moved into Zlitan, by Tuesday.

Ali Terbelo, the rebel commander, said other opposition forces already were in Zlitan, trying to encircle Gadhafi troops. If the rebels take the city they would be within 85 miles (135 kilometers) of the eastern outskirts of Gadhafi’s capital, Tripoli.

An AP reporter with rebel forces said shelling was intense Monday morning with rockets and artillery and mortar shells slamming into rebel lines west of Dafniya at a rate of about 7 each minute. Dafniya is about 20 miles (30 kilometers) west of Misrata

Officials at Hikma Hospital in Misrata said government shelling killed seven and wounded 49 on Sunday. New casualty figures were not available but ambulances were rushing from the Dafniya line back into Misrata.

The rebel thrust at Zawiya and movements farther east — near Misrata and Brega — suggested the stalemated uprising had been reinvigorated, and that Gadhafi’s defenders may become stretched thin.

“Over the past three days, we set fire under the feet of Gadhafi forces everywhere,” Col. Hamid al-Hasi, a rebel battalion commander, told AP. He said the rebels attacked “in very good coordination with NATO” to avoid friendly-fire incidents. “We don’t move unless we have very clear instructions from NATO.”

Rebels encountered a major setback, however, near the eastern oil town of Brega on Monday. Suleiman Rafathi, a doctor at the hospital in the town of Ajdabiya where the casualties were taken, said 23 rebels were killed and 26 wounded in a government ambush about 22 miles (35 kilometers) east of Brega.

The front lines between Brega and Ajdabiya have been relatively quiet in recent weeks, while fighting has raged in western Libya.

Rebel fighters appear to be rebounding with help from the NATO blockade of ports still under government control and alliance control of Libyan airspace. Both have severely crimped the North African dictator’s ability to resupply his forces. And his control has been hard hit by defections from his military and government inner circle.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke again against the Libyan regime, telling the nations of Africa on Monday to sever links Gadhafi despite his long support and patronage for many African leaders.

In a speech on Monday to diplomats at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, Clinton said Africa should join most of the rest of the world in abandoning Gadhafi. She said the Libyan leader has lost all legitimacy to rule because of attacks on his own citizens.

She’s urged all African leaders to demand that Gadhafi accept a ceasefire and then leave Libya. She also said they should expel pro-Gadhafi Libyan diplomats from their countries, suspend the operations of Libyan embassies and work with the Libyan opposition.

The rebel council also won recognition from the United Arab Emirates, adding a wealthy, influential Arab state to the handful of nations thus far accepting the insurgents as Libyans’ sole legitimate representatives.

In a lighter moment, the Libyan leader was shown playing chess with the visiting Russian head of the World Chess Federation. The federation is headed by the eccentric Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, who until last year was the leader of Russia’s predominantly Buddhist republic of Kalmykia. He once claimed to have visited an alien spaceship.

Libyan state television showed Gadhafi, dressed all in black and wearing dark sunglasses, playing chess Sunday evening with his Russian guest.

Russia’s Interfax news agency quoted Ilyumzhinov as saying Gadhafi told him he has no intention of leaving Libya despite international pressure.

It was unclear where the chess game took place. Gadhafi’s compound in the center of Tripoli has been under NATO bombardment and was hit again Sunday.

Gadhafi had not been seen in public since mid-May, and Ilyumzhinov told him how pleased he was to find him healthy and well.

 

Japan admits being unprepared for nuclear disaster

Banri Kaiedahttp://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110607/ap_on_re_us/as_japan_earthquake

By MARI YAMAGUCHI, Associated Press Mari Yamaguchi, Associated Press 2 hrs 1 min ago

TOKYO – Japan admitted Tuesday it was unprepared for a severe nuclear accident like the tsunami-caused Fukushima disaster and said damage to the reactors and radiation leakage were worse than it previously thought.

In a report being submitted to the U.N. nuclear agency, the government also acknowledged reactor design flaws and a need for greater independence for the country’s nuclear regulators.

The report said the nuclear fuel in three reactors likely melted through the inner containment vessels, not just the core, after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami knocked out the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant’s power and cooling systems. Fuel in the Unit 1 reactor started melting hours earlier than previously estimated.

The 750-page report, compiled by Japan’s nuclear emergency taskforce, factors in a preliminary evaluation by a team from the International Atomic Energy Agency and was to be submitted to the IAEA as requested.

“In light of the lessons learned from the accident, Japan has recognized that a fundamental revision of its nuclear safety preparedness and response is inevitable,” the report said. It also recommended a national debate on nuclear power.

The report said the flaws in basic reactor design — the Mark-1 model developed by General Electric — included the venting system for the containment vessels and the location of spent fuel cooling pools high in the buildings, which resulted in leaks of radioactive water that hampered repair work.

GE’s website says 32 Mark-1 reactors, designed 40 years ago and upgraded since, still operate around the world.

Japan’s report also noted that the six-reactor Fukushima plant paired up two reactors to share some facilities and equipment, also delaying the accident responses.

The report said the vents lacked filtering capability, causing contamination of the air, and the vent line interfered with connecting pipes.

Desperate attempts by plant workers to vent pressure to prevent the containment vessels from bursting repeatedly failed. Experts have said the delay in venting was a primary cause of explosions that further damaged the reactors and spewed huge amounts of radiation into the air. The report also noted the outermost containment buildings should have had vents to prevent a series of explosions at three units.

The melted cores and radiation leaks have irradiated workers, including two control room operators whose exposures have exceeded the government limit.

Earlier Tuesday, the Health and Labor Ministry inspectors visited the plant to investigate if TEPCO used adequate caution.

Lack of protection for plant workers early in the crisis and inadequate information about radiation leaks were also a problem, nuclear crisis taskforce director Goshi Hosono said.

The report acknowledged a lack of independence for Japan’s nuclear regulator, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, and pledged to improve safety oversight, as recommended in the IAEA report last week. Bureaucracy and division of responsibility by several government agencies also delayed decision-making, the report said.

The report also said accident management measures, which are left up to operators’ voluntary effort, should be made legally binding. Accident management guidelines have not been reviewed or improved since being introduced in 1992, it said.

Trade and Industry Minister Banri Kaieda promised to share all available data about the accident and cooperate with the IAEA.

“Our country bears a serious responsibility to provide data to the international community with maximum transparency and actively contribute to nuclear safety,” he said.

The report comes a day after NISA said twice as much radiation may have been released into the air as earlier estimated. That would be about one-sixth of the amount released at Chernobyl instead of the earlier estimate of one-tenth.

NISA said its analysis used a different method than had been employed by the plant’s operator last month and is believed to “better reflect reality.”

After Chernobyl, Japan stepped up nuclear safety measures but that effort did not last long, Hosono acknowledged.

“We should never repeat the same mistake,” he said.

 

Missionfuge part 2

Hey guys! Sorry I haven’t posted in a few days. So, here’s whats going on. Today after church Bro.Eugene gave us some information about MissionFuge. It was pretty said what we could bring and what not to, and Bro.Eugene wants us to decide what missions we want to be in.(we have to choose three) I have chosen two already but I’m not sure about the last one. That’s about it for now. I’ll update ya’ll when I have more information about Mission Fuge or when my church is having an activity. Bye guys

So

Here are some more pictures I found on www.google.com that I like.

http://new.music.yahoo.com/blogs/thatsreallyweek/134443/may-23-29-jay-z-captures-beyonces-subtler-side-in-dressing-room-rehearsal-footage/

It’s been a great week for Beyoncé’s confident, fist-pumping, female-anthem-making alter ego Sasha Fierce. She rocked three major stages to rave reviews: the “Billboard Music Awards“, “Oprah’s Farewell Spectacular,” and “American Idol.” But she’s also receiving some deserved attention for her impressive acoustic rehearsal footage.

Following the “Idol” broadcast, Beyoncé’s husband, Jay-Z, posted behind-the-scenes footage of his wife singing her new emotional ballad “1+1” in her dressing room. Accompanied by a pianist and her background singers, Beyoncé simply stands in front of a vanity mirror with her head humbly held low and eyes closed as she belts her way through the lyrics while her mother, nephew, and cousin, among others, watch in awe.

  the song, Beyoncé pledges her unconditional love for someone special. “We ain’t got nothing but love, and darling you’ve got enough for both of us,” she sings.

Jay-Z, who actually videotaped the clip, stressed the uniqueness of the stripped-down run-through. “This is the dressing-room rehearsal for ‘American Idol,'” he wrote on his Life+Times website under the pseudonym Andy WarHOV. “‘NO MICROPHONE. No effects.”

Fans online are equally pleased, saying this raw performance reflects the depths of Beyoncé’s talent. “Amazing pitch! Great control over her voice. No reverb, microphone, fade-in/out, vocaline, compressor, emlodyne, autotune, logic audio or protools needed,” Denasimone commented on popular urban blog Concrete Loop, one of the first sites to post the video.

Jay-Z described Beyoncé’s “pregame” show as refreshing. “Sometimes you need perspective,” he wrote. “You’ve been right in front of greatness so often that you need to step back and see it again for the first time.”

https://i2.wp.com/a323.yahoofs.com/ymg/realityrocks__27/realityrocks-379931122-1306382768.jpgBut of course, Beyoncé’s “Idol” experience wasn’t the only cool “Idol” news to break this week. On Wednesday night, the show named its 10th winner, Scotty McCreery. Elsewhere in the latest happenings in the music world, Justin Bieber and girlfriend Selena Gomez confirmed their boyfriend-girlfriend status when they shared an on camera kiss as the 17-year-old pop singer headed to the stage to receive a Billboard Music Award. The demand for Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” album caused the servers at online retailer Amazon to crash, as eager fans rushed to take advantage of the 99-cent presale promotion. And the Grammys caught flack from music veterans Carlos Santa and Paul Simon who demanded that the respected National Academy Of Recording Arts And Sciences reinstate the 30 categories it eliminated earlier this year.

Hopefully, this recap gives you the information you need to be pop culture experts at Memorial Day barbecues this weekend. Enjoy. We’ll see you back next week.

Any Ideas

Here we are yet again. How are ya’ll? Now I know that my posts are kind of boring, so I’m asking ya’ll for any ideas of what I can blog about. (please nothing inappropriate). So. yea please post your ideas and tell me what you think about my blogs. Whatelse do I want to put. Oh! yea I’m now a senior. YAY! At last my final year of high school. Well, any this is it. I look forward to your comments and I hope ya’ll are enjoying my blogs.

Bye

Palestinian Yasser Srsaui, right, embraces a family member before crossing into Egypt through the Rafah border crossing, southern Gaza Strip, Saturdayhttp://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110528/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_gaza_border

By IBRAHIM BARZAK, Associated Press Ibrahim Barzak, Associated Press 2 hrs 58 mins ago

RAFAH, Gaza Strip – Egypt lifted a four-year-old blockade on the Gaza Strip’s main link to the outside world Saturday, bringing relief to the crowded territory’s 1.5 million Palestinians but deepening a rift with Israel since the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak earlier this year.

The Egyptian move will allow thousands of Gazans to move freely in and out of the area — heightening Israeli fears that militants and weapons could easily reach its doorstep.

Israel and Egypt imposed the blockade after the Islamic militant Hamas seized control of Gaza in June 2007. The closure, which also included tight Israeli restrictions at its cargo crossings with Gaza and a naval blockade, was meant to weaken Hamas, but it also fueled an economic crisis in the densely populated territory.

Hundreds of Gazans gathered early Saturday as the first bus load of passengers crossed the border at 9 a.m. Two Egyptian officers stood guard next to a large Egyptian flag atop the border gate as the vehicle rumbled through.

Rami Arafat, 52, was among the earliest arrivals. He said he hoped to catch a flight out of Cairo on Sunday to Algeria for his daughter’s wedding.

“All we need is to travel like humans, be treated with dignity, and feel like any other citizens of the world who can travel in and out freely,” Arafat said. He said he believed the relaxing of travel restrictions “will guarantee more support from all Arabs and Palestinians for the new Egyptian regime.”

Nearby, 28-year-old Khaled Halaweh said he was headed to Egypt to study for a master’s degree in engineering at Alexandria University.

“The closure did not affect only the travel of passengers or the flowing of goods. Our brains and our thoughts were under blockade,” said Halaweh, who said he hadn’t been out of Gaza for seven years.

Until Saturday, the Rafah border terminal had functioned at a limited capacity. Only certain classes of people, such as students, businessmen or medical patients, were eligible to travel and the crossing was often subject to closures, leading to huge backlogs that forced people to wait for months.

Under the new system, most restrictions are being lifted, and a much larger number of Palestinians are expected to be able to cross each day.

Inside the border terminal Saturday, the atmosphere was orderly, as Hamas police called up passengers one by one to register their travel documents.

After 5 1/2 hours of operation, terminal officials said 340 people had crossed from Gaza into Egypt. None were forced to return, a departure from the past when Egypt had rejected passengers found to be on “blacklists.” Another 150 people crossed from Egypt into Gaza.

“Today is a cornerstone for a new era that we hope will pave the road to ending the siege and blockade on Gaza,” said Hatem Awideh, director general of the Hamas border authority in Gaza. “We hope this facilitation by our Egyptian brothers will improve travel and will allow everyone to leave Gaza.”

One after another buses crossed Rafah, pulling blue carts behind them with luggage piled high. Inside the terminal, many waited with high hopes.

One woman, who gave her name as Aisha, said she was headed for a long overdue medical checkup in Cairo. She underwent surgery for blocked arteries at a Cairo hospital in October, but Egyptian authorities had prevented her from returning for checkups because a distant relative was caught — and killed — operating a smuggling tunnel on the Gaza-Egypt border. During the four-year blockade, a thriving smuggling business has grown along the border.

Salama Baraka, head of police at the Rafah terminal on the Gaza side, said travel has been limited to about 300 passengers a day under the old system. He said it was unclear how many people would pass through Saturday, but that officials hoped to get about three days’ worth of people, or roughly 900, across.

About 100 Hamas supporters marched with Palestinian and Egyptian flags outside the border terminal in a gesture of gratitude to Egypt.

“This courageous step by Egypt reflects the deep historic relations between the Palestinian and Egyptian nations,” said Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zahri. “We hope this will be a step in the long process to end the blockade imposed on Gaza.”

The new system will not resolve Gazans’ travel woes completely.

While Egypt has dropped its restrictions on who can travel, bureaucratic obstacles remain. Men between the ages of 18 and 40 will have to apply for Egyptian visas, a process that can take weeks. Women, children and older men need easier-to-obtain travel permits, which can be obtained in several days.

Israel, which controls Gaza’s cargo crossings, allows most consumer goods into Gaza, but it still restricts exports as well as the entry of much-needed construction materials, saying they could be used by militants. Israel also enforces a naval blockade aimed at weapons smuggling.

Israeli and American officials have expressed concerns that Hamas will exploit the opening to bring weapons and fighters into Gaza. In January 2008, masked militants blew open the Rafah border wall, allowing thousands of people to pour in and out of Egypt.

Egyptian officials say they have security measures in place to keep weapons from crossing through Rafah.

Hamas has long used tunnels to get arms into Gaza. Gaza militants now have military-grade rockets that have hit cities in southern Israel.

Amos Gilad, a senior Israeli Defense Ministry official, told Channel 2 TV Friday that Israel’s primary concern is that military training personnel could cross to instruct Hamas fighters.

“One trainer who tells them how to set up the rockets and how to use them is equal to a large quantity of weapons,” Gilad said.

Egypt’s decision to open the border is also meant to boost an Egyptian-mediated unity deal between the rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah. Hamas has governed Gaza since routing Fatah forces in 2007, leaving the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority in control only of the West Bank.

Last month, the Egyptian regime brokered a reconciliation deal. With details still being worked out, Hamas will be in charge of the Palestinian side of the Rafah crossing, but Egypt coordinated the opening with the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank, said Yaser Afnan, Egypt’s ambassador in the West Bank.

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