The siege of Gaza, imposed by Israel after Hamas seized the Palestinian territory last July, ended abruptly before dawn on Jan. 23 when militants blew holes in a border wall and over 350,000 Palestinians swarmed into Egypt.
Some Palestinians craved food—goats were a hot item for purchase on the Egyptian side—and medicine because Israel had blocked all but basic "humanitarian aid" from Gaza. Businessmen and students streamed over, as did scores of brides-to-be, caught on the Egyptian side, who scurried across to be united with their future bridegrooms in Gaza. And some, like teacher Abu Bakr, stepped through a blast hole into Egypt simply "to enjoy the air of freedom."
The day before, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak had faced the Arab world's wrath when his riot police attacked Palestinian women protesting the closed border. Mubarak wasn't about to do it again, despite pressure from Israel and the U.S. The Egyptian President said he ordered his troops to "let them come to eat and buy food and go back, as long as they are not carrying weapons."
Now that Gazans have exploded out of their besieged enclave, it may be up to Israel to seal the border again, since the Egyptians are showing no signs of closing it. Israel corralled Gaza's 1.5 million people behind a 40-mile-long (64 km) concrete barrier hoping that the controversial blockade—described as "collective punishment" by many aid organizations—would turn the Palestinians against their Hamas overlords. But with the siege broken, even if temporarily, Hamas, with its explosives no less, has earned the gratitude of hungry Palestinians and gained a longer lease in Gaza.