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Gaza busts out of its blockade

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Arab satellite-television channels have been flooded with stories examining the fate of Gazans who have died because of lack of access to drugs and medical care, and angry rhetoric that Israel is seeking to starve Gaza's residents. Those TV stations today showed jubilant Palestinians bearing food and fuel from Egypt back across the border.

While starvation has not been a problem there – most of the strip's residents receive food aid from the UN – it's proved a powerful idea in the propaganda war over Gaza's fate. Mubarak said Wednesday he ordered the border guards not to intervene because "the Palestinians in Gaza are starving due to the Israeli siege... I told them to let them come in and eat and buy food and then return later as long as they were not carrying weapons."

The wall separating Gaza and Egypt was blown open at four in the morning, also blowing a hole in Israel's strategy of fighting Hamas with economic isolation. By sunrise, Palestinians from all over Gaza began fleeing toward Egypt.

They entered on foot with empty hands, and in some cases, empty suitcases. They emerged with arms and bags full, carrying a variety of goods whose prices have become astronomical in recent weeks: Milk, cookies, cooking oil, detergent.

Men drove donkeys and horses with their backs loaded with bags of cement, which has risen to about $80 a bag recently, from about $5 before. Several hundred Egyptian police gave Palestinian pedestrians a wide berth and let them come and go unperturbed, some lugging containers of diesel or leading newly purchased cows and goats.

Gazan frustration grew this week, as Israel severely limited fuel supplies. Israel was supposed to begin supplying Gaza with fuel again Tuesday, but stopped short of what was needed, says Kanaan Obeid, the vice president of Gaza's Energy and Human Resources Authority. Mr. Obeid says there is now enough fuel for another two days.

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