Burnt luggage of pilgrims from Gaza sparks Palestinian anger towards Egypt
Luggage for pilgrims from Gaza burnt during their return from performing Umrah in Saudi Arabia via Egypt, in turn sparking anger among Palestinians in the besieged enclave towards the Egyptian government and their treatment of Palestinian travellers.
On Wednesday, the Palestinian Ministry of Endowments announced that they were informed by Egyptian authorities that "when the truck carrying luggage arrived at the Sebeka area in Al-Arish, it caught fire, from an electrical short circuit."
Warood Mohammed, from Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip, was among dozens of pilgrims who lost their luggage while returning from Umrah on Tuesday.
"I did not expect to return to my country after performing the Umrah rituals, without my luggage, which was full of gifts for my relatives, after an arduous travel journey through Egypt," the 49-year-old woman told The New Arab.
"In a normal situation, the journey from the Gaza Strip to Saudi Arabia takes a few hours, but the Egyptian authorities deliberately humiliate us during our exit from the crossing and during our return," she claimed.
"They forced us to spend long hours waiting, even though we are fasting and the journey is hard," Mohammed said.
"The Egyptian soldiers treated us as if we were their enemies," she added. "They told us to wait for a little while the bags would arrive, but after many hours of waiting, they simply told us that all the bags were burnt."
Mohammed also noted that the Egyptian government "forced us to pay about US$530 more than the basic fees to perform the Umrah under the pretext of securing our travel and return, but it did not do that."
Reacting to the incident, activists in Gaza launched an online campaign under the hashtag "#Where-is-the-luggage" that called for an immediate investigation by the Egyptian government on the causes of the fire, as well as to hold to account those responsible and to compensate Palestinian pilgrims.
One of the activists, Alaa Qadouha wrote on his Twitter account, "[W]e want those responsible to be held accountable and to pay compensation to the pilgrims if you want justice to the afflicted people of Gaza!"
Emphasising that the accident occurred on Egyptian territory, he added, "The Egyptian authorities bear the consequences and repercussions of the accident and should compensate the pilgrims financially and morally."
Shady Abu Sabha, another Gaza-based activist, wrote on his Twitter account, "The pilgrims from Gaza went to [the Kaaba], they paid exaggerated sums of money in exchange for passage through the Egyptian crossing and protection!"
"Their journey was made of torment, insults and curses against the guests of God," he added.