Thousands of Palestinians Cross into Egypt, as the Border Wall With Gaza in Rafah is Blown up by Militants

The breach of the Gaza-Egypt border began on January 23, 2008, after Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip set off an explosion near the Rafah Border Crossing, destroying part of the Israeli Gaza Strip barrier.

The United Nations estimates that as many as half the 1.5 million population of the Gaza Strip crossed the border into Egypt seeking food and supplies. Israeli police went on an increased alert due to fears that militants would acquire weapons in Egypt.

Egypt closed the Rafah Border Crossing in June 2007, days before the Hamas took control of Gaza at the end of the Fatah-Hamas conflict; The breach followed a blockade of the Gaza Strip by Israel beginning in part that same June, with fuel supply reductions in October 2007. A total blockade had begun on January 17, 2008 following a rise in rocket attacks on Israel emanating from Gaza.

On January 22, gunfire erupted after a group of Hamas demonstrators, mostly women, forced open the door of the Rafah Border crossing and fled into Egypt.

Overnight on January 23, gunmen set off a number of explosions along the wall near the crossing. Palestinians packed into cars and donkey carts, crossed the border into Egypt from Gaza on foot, to buy essential goods. Between 200,000 and 700,000 Palestinians crossed over to Egypt and bought items at shops at the Egyptian half of Rafah and the North Sinai Governorate's capital, Arish. A Palestinian security guard later told The Times of London that militants had been steadily cutting through the base of the Israeli Gaza Strip barrier with oxyacetylene torches for months.