THOUSANDS of Blackburn with Darwen residents have signed a petition asking the Egyptian government to open its border with Gaza to allow humanitarian aid through to Palestinians caught in the Israel/Hamas conflict.

Queen’s Park Labour councillor Mustafa Desai has been collecting names and signatures for the past week.

Already 2,000 people, mainly from mosques, have signed the petition, but now councillors of all three main parties have been asked to do so.

The document is also to be circulated round social centres to ensure it reflects the entire community in Blackburn with Darwen. Coun Desai hopes that more than 5,000 people will have signed the petition before it presented to Egypt's ambassador in London Ashraf El-Kholy next week.

The new military government in Cairo closed the only border crossing with Gaza at Rafah on August 14 last year 'indefinitely'.

Since Israel began its attacks on Gaza on July 8, it has opened briefly and sporadically.

According to Egypt's health ministry, 140 injured Palestinians have entered the country for treatment so far.

Coun Desai said: “We believe the border at Rafah should be open more often and for longer so humanitarian aid can get to suffering Palestinians.

“This petition, which we hope will have between 5,000 and 7,000 signatures by Friday, will be presented to the Egyptian ambassador in London next week.

“We believe it is vital the border between Egypt and Gaza is open for meaningful lengths of time to get aid through to Gaza. Asking the Cairo government to do this is an achievable aim.”

A spokesman for the Egyptian Embassy said: “The border has been opened when it is appropriate and safe. It is a sovereign matter for the Egyptian government which is doing more than any other to try and broker peace in Gaza.

“They are welcome to send the petition.”