I am an illegal immigrant.
I was. Briefly, anyway. A few times.
Over the last three years, I have illegally crossed into Lebanon (after the 2006 Hezbollah-Israel war) and, twice, into Egypt.
My first illegal crossing came in September, 2005 when Israel pulled the last of its military forces out of the Gaza Strip after 38-years of military rule.
As soon as people were certain that Israel was gone, Gaza residents headed to the border where Egyptian soldiers looked the other way as thousands of Palestinians flooded into Egypt to shop and celebrate.
Many had not left Gaza in years, if not decades. Some had never been outside of Gaza at all.
Gaza-Egypt border, September, 2005 (Photo: Adam Pletts)
Back then, we used ropes and ladders to follow Palestinians as they scampered over the 25-foot-tall corrugated iron fence to get out of Gaza.
Climbing the Gaza-Egypt border fence, September, 2005 (Photo: Adam Pletts)
While Israel was in Gaza, this area was a deadly no-go zone for Palestinians. Israeli tanks destroyed large parts of Rafah neighborhoods to create the buffer zone here between Gaza and Egypt.
On our way back into Gaza from a long visit in Egypt, we pulled and pushed ourselves through a small hole in the metal as Palestinians on both sides fought to get in or out.
Illegally crossing from Gaza into Egypt, September, 2005
This time, militants prepared a more sophisticated escape.
For weeks, according to one eyewitness, Palestinian militants had been methodically using blow torches to undermine the integrity of the metal fence.
Freelance Palestinian journalist Zuhair Najar said he was in Rafah a week ago working on a story about the network of smuggling tunnels under the border (used to get weapons in and militants out) when he saw militants doing some work on the iron fence.
Najar watched as the militants brought in a bulldozer and, within sight of Egyptian forces on the other side of the border, knocked down a small section of the fence. It was clear, Najar said, that the militants had methodically used blowtorches to cut through and weaken the metal before bringing it down.
The militants, who Najar said were with Hamas, told him they were preparing to repel any possible Israeli attack.
But now it is clear that it was part of a long, well-organized plan to bring down the wall and break the Israeli economic siege.
The Gaza-Egypt border fence, January, 2008