Palestinian Authority terrorists over the weekend attacked workers building an underground “Iron Curtain” between Egypt and Gaza as Cairo tightens security at the border in an effort to end the weapons and drug smuggling into Gaza.
There were no reports of injuries in the attack, the fourth in as many weeks, according to Egyptian and PA officials.
However, tensions are rising along the Gaza-Egyptian border, as construction of the steel barrier, to be sunk under the border 30 meters deep (100 feet) and 10 kilometers (6 miles) long, continues beneath the border town of Rafiah.
The area of the border between Gaza and Egypt is honeycombed with a network of at least 100 tunnels, which do a brisk trade in all kinds of goods that are brought in from Egypt, including cars, clothing, foodstuffs and luxury items. In addition, terrorists and contraband such as light weapons, ammunition, drugs and heavier ordnance - including parts to build rockets, mortars and long-range missiles - are also “imported” through the smuggler tunnels.
Aboul Gheit: ‘Egypt’s Right to Protect Itself’
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit has, until this weekend, adroitly sidestepped questions about the barrier. But in an interview Saturday, Aboul Gheit finally discussed it with the al-Ahram al-Arabi daily newspaper, saying, “Whether it is a wall, sensors or tapping devices… what matters is that Egyptian territory must be protected. Whoever says Egypt is imposing its control on the border, we tell them this is Egypt’s full right.”
Commentator Dr. Aaron Lerner of Independent Media Review and Analysis (IMRA), however, wrote earlier this month that the underground barrier is simply another exercise is ‘much to show about nothing.’ Lerner contends that the barrier will benefit everyone involved except Israel, because many tunnels are built deeper than the wall will extend.
Hamas: We're Trying to Contain Terror
Following the shootings, the Hamas “Interior Minister” of Gaza’s de facto government, Fathi Hammad, claimed that Hamas is "trying" to control the gunmen. The PA-linked Ma’an news agency quoted Hammad in a phone conversation with Egyptian government officials on Saturday, after a second attack by Gaza snipers aimed at Egyptian construction workers.
Hammad repeated a comment made earlier in the day by Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum, who told the Egyptians they had less to fear from Gaza than from the “Israeli occupation.” The Hamas government, he said, "confirms that it will protect Egypt's security."
Both condemned Egypt’s support of what they referred to as Israel’s blockade of the region - and were rebuffed by the Egyptians. “The Palestinian cause is dear to our heart and the Egyptians have paid a heavy price defending this case,” responded Aboul Gheit in the al-Ahram al-Arabi interview. “But Egyptian territory and its security are more important than anything else.”
Israel closed its crossings into the region following its expulsion of all Jews from the region and a unilateral disengagement from Gaza in 2005. The IDF tightened the seal after the disengagement was followed by the 2006 kidnapping of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit by Hamas terrorists and increased rocket attacks on the Negev - instead of increased peace with Gaza Arabs. Shalit has remained in captivity in Gaza to this day, his whereabouts unknown and condition not verified by any independent source.