Egypt confesses building steel barrier next Israeli siege-hit Gaza
Egyptian officials confirmed that Egypt is building an underground steel barrier next to its border with Gaza, where Palestinians have sttruggled heavy blockade.
Egyptian officials confirmed on Monday that Egypt is building an underground steel barrier next to its border with Gaza, where Palestinians have sttruggled heavy blockade.
The construction could create tension with Palestinians at a time when Egypt is mediating to finalise a swap of Palestinian prisoners held in Israel and an Israeli soldier, who is being held by Palestinians in Gaza.
Gazas economy is dependent on the tunnels, increasingly under attack by both Israeli and Egyptian forces. Tens have been killed in the underground system over the past months, and dozens more over the nearly three years of Gaza siege. The industry remains, however, the only growing work opportunity in Gaza.
Egypt was criticised in the Arab world and in Arab media for not taking a step against Israel's attack on Gaza last year. During the attack, Israel bombed sites along Egypt's border.
Government workers have begun placing steel tubes 50 centimetres in diameter and 20 metres long one above the other, the Egyptian security officials said.
Eyewitness from Rafah and Gaza said on Sunday they could see workers attaching short tubes end-to-end then placing them deep into the ground as a single long tube. It was not clear how deep the barrier would extend.
Some politicians in Cairo and Gaza believe the barrier is designed to tighten a blockade clamped around Gaza by Israel. Gaza residents have built hundreds of tunnels under the border to smuggle basic goods into the territory.
Hamas Minister of Interior Fathi Hammad called Egyptian officials to ask them about reports he had received regarding a steel barrier, his spokesman Ehab Al-Ghsain said in Gaza.
"The minister expressed his worry and concern about what is happening at the border and is seeking an explanation to the building of a new wall along the border," Al-Ghsain said.
Hammad had told Egyptian officials that "the real danger comes from the Zionist enemy and that Gaza was never a danger to Egypt's national security." he added.
Israel launched on Dec. 27 a massive offensive in Gaza, killing more than 1434 Palestinians, a third of them children, and wounded at least 5300.
In its land, sea and ar offensive, Israel targeted hospitals, schools, mosques and government buildings and destroyed infrastructure system in Gaza, lefting Palestinians without electricity, gas and power.
But Israel imposes heavy blockade on entry of infrastracture materials under the pretext of Palestinians can use them as "weapon" materials.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit skirted the barrier issue in an interview published on Saturday in Egypt's al-Ahram al-Arabi magazine.
"That there is a wall or spying equipment are issues that are being discussed repeatedly, but what is important is that Egyptian land should be protected and any Egyptian should not allow his land to be violated in one way or the other," Aboul Gheit told the magazine.
Soliman Awdah, head of the municipality of Rafah which lies alongside the border, said no barrier was under construction and the only work in the area was to build a road for equipment to monitor the border.
Reuters Last Mod: 22 Aralık 2009, 09:17