After a harrowing day during which long lines threatened to prevent them from reaching Egypt in time for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, thousands of Israeli Arabs reached the Sinai Peninsula on Friday after officials and lawmakers demanded that the Taba border crossing operate beyond normal working hours in order to facilitate their crossing.
Long lines began forming to get into Sinai at around 3:00 a.m. early Friday morning. The Israel Airports Authority, which planned to close the crossing at 2:00 p.m. in deference to the Yom Kippur holiday, kept the terminal operating an extra hour to accommodate the swelling crowd.
As the line grew, physical altercations ensued, prompting Eilat police to arrive at the scene and restore order.
“The wait was humiliating,” said one of the travelers. “The border personnel were working very slowly, and the children and parents grew more restless. Some of those who came considered going back home.”
“We are in deep distress because of the terrible pressure here,” said Ahmed Ganaim, a resident of Baka al-Gharbiya. “We don’t know what to do because the work [of allowing people through] is being done very slowly, so we have reached a point of frustration. Instead of the relevant authorities helping us, we felt as if they were mistreating us and being very insensitive to us during our holiday. We came here before dawn and now we are standing under the oppressive sun.”
The director of the civil rights NGO Mossawa, Jafar Farah, urged the IAA and the Prime Minister’s Office to expedite the work at the border crossing.
A number of lawmakers, including Hadash MK Dov Khenin and Ta’al-United Arab List MK Ahmed Tibi, also sought to wield their influence in a bid to assist the vacation-goers. Tibi demanded that Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz order the crossing to remain open beyond the scheduled closing time due to the Yom Kippur holiday.
Tibi later said that Katz agreed to his request, extending the border crossing’s operating hours until 3:00 p.m. on Friday. Egyptian authorities also announced that they would extend operating hours of border and customs officials.
“The staff was working hard since the early morning hours,” the IAA said in a statement. “Both Israel and Egypt are making great efforts to permit the crossing of travelers.”
View original Jerusalem Post publication at: http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Thousands-of-Israeli-Arabs-left-stranded-at-Sinai-border-crossing-over-weekend-378014