Before dawn, Palestinian militants blew up and tore down large sections of the concrete and iron walls separating the Gaza Strip from Egypt.It looks like yesterday's clashes between Gazan women and Egyptian border guards were staged specifically for the purpose of doing this pre-planned operation in such a way that Egypt would be unwilling to interfere.
They had apparently been planning the attack for weeks. With the knowledge of locals, militants had spent weeks methodically using blow torches to cut along the bottom of the 30-foot-tall corrugated iron wall along the Egyptian border.
Before dawn on Wednesday, militants blew holes in the adjacent concrete slabs and then toppled the iron wall.
And it seems probable that everything we've seen over the past few days - Hamas closing bakeries, shutting the fuel plant, perhaps even the rocket barrages themselves last week - were all meant to play to world opinion, create a fake "crisis", all ultimately to force Egypt to open Rafah, something that Hamas has been trying to do for months.
UPDATE: The Times (UK) reports that this has been going on for months!
a Hamas border guard interviewed by The Times at the border today admitted that the Islamist group was responsible and had been involved for months in slicing through the heavy metal wall using oxy-acetylene cutting torches.
That meant that when the explosive charges were set off in 17 different locations after midnight last night the 40ft wall came tumbling down, leaving it lying like a broken concertina down the middle of no-man's land as an estimated 350,000 Gazans flooded into Egypt.
The guard, Lieutenant Abu Usama of the Palestinian National Security, said of the cutting operation: "I've seen this happening over the last few months. It happened in the daytime but was covered up so that nobody would see."
Asked whether he had reported it to the government, he replied: "It was the government that was doing this. Who would I report it to?"
Abu Usama, who normally works from a small guard cabin in no-man's land, added: "Last night we were told to keep away from the wall. We were ordered to stay away because they were going to break the blockade."