Rafiah border closed
Rafiah border closedIsrael news photo: Flash 90

Twelve Bedouin terrorists and Egyptian security forces were killed south of Gaza where Bedouin tried to take control Saturday of territory that serves for smuggling. Egypt has sent more forces into the region and has closed the Rafiah border.

Armed terrorists attacked Egyptian police in Rafiah, which straddles the border between Gaza and Egypt, and they torched at least one police station, according to the Bethlehem-based Ma'an news agency.

Part of the barrier was destroyed, but Hamas reportedly repaired the breach to prevent a mass exodus of Gaza Arabs.

Bedouin tribes had taken advantage of a pullback of Egyptian police and army forces, which the Mubarak government brought closer to Cairo and the Suez areas to suppress rallies calling for the resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Rocket-propelled grenades and rifle shots accompanied the attempted takeover.

The northern Sinai Peninsula is the center of smuggling of drugs, terrorists, weapons into Gaza, and is also a passage area for Africans seeking better economic conditions in Israel. Egypt has failed to stop the smuggling operations, despite a promise by the United States to install monitoring devices as an inducement for Israel to agree to a ceasefire in the three-week Operation Cast Lead counterterrorist campaign two years ago.

Several Arab prisoners, including those from Hamas, escaped Egyptian prisons during the mayhem that has rocked the country and reached Gaza through smuggling tunnels. More than a thousand others, including Muslim extremists, escaped jails and scattered throughout Egypt.

In Gaza, Arab residents rushed to gas stations to stock up on fuel, fearing a shortage due to increased security in the Sinai, where smuggling tunnels provide most of the gasoline supplies to Gaza.