Egyptian troops move to close Gaza border

By Xinhua

Cairo : Egyptian border guards on Friday moved to close the Egyptian-Gaza borders as more Palestinians gathered at the border town of Rafah, the pan-Arab television al-Jazeera reported.

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Egyptian security forces announced by loudspeaker on the Egyptian side of Rafah on Friday that the borders with Gaza would be closed from 1300 GMT, said the report.

Small scale violence has erupted between Egyptian riot police and Palestinians at the border town as some Palestinians hurled stones at the Egyptian troops.

The Egyptian forces with riot shields have formed a human wall in preparation for blocking more Palestinians from entering the Egyptian side of the border town, and water cannons were also seen fired at one point above the heads of the gathering people to keep them back.

According to the TV footage, several trucks of Egyptian riot police were carried to the border area for reinforcement.

On Thursday, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak asserted his country’s resolve to support the Palestinians and their just cause, a day after the Palestinians in the sieged Gaza Strip forcibly swarmed into Egypt via Rafah border crossing.

After the Rafah crossing was forcibly opened, Israel held Egypt responsible. “It is the responsibility for Egypt to ensure that the border operates properly, according to the signed agreements,” Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Arye Mekel said.

Palestinian militants on Wednesday blew up holes in the concrete wall separating southern Gaza and Egypt, which allowed destitute Palestinians in Gaza to pour in Egypt to purchase daily necessities as the hope to lift Gaza siege faded.

Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki told Xinhua Thursday by phone that more than 300,000 Palestinians had entered the Egyptian side of Rafah crossing to buy food, fuel and other basic needs.

He said that the Egyptian security forces did not interfere with the Palestinians, but only directed the traffic back to Gaza at the border.