Egyptian Islamic activist detained at Gaza border


Ismailia : Egyptian security forces detained an Islamist opposition activist on Saturday as he crossed into Egypt from the Gaza Strip, saying they believed he had entered Gaza illegally via a cross-border tunnel, security sources said.

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The sources said that Magdy Ahmed Hussein, the head of the Islamist-oriented Labour party, was carrying no papers other than a driving licence when he tried to return to Egypt through the Rafah border crossing.

The government suspended the activities of Hussein`s party in 2000, partly due to its links with the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt`s largest opposition group.

For the 1.5 million people in the Gaza Strip, the tunnels have become a main source of goods, including fuel, since Israel tightened its embargo after Hamas seized control of Gaza from the forces of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in 2007.

Israel bombed the tunnels during its recent 22-day Gaza offensive, and its military fears Hamas could use them to re-arm. But many tunnels have sophisticated systems and seem to have survived weeks of Israeli bombardment.

Roughly 1,300 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed in the Gaza offensive before both sides declared an end to the fighting on Jan. 18. Israel says its offensive was aimed at halting Hamas rocket attacks on its southern communities.

Egypt, which has kept its Rafah border crossing with the territory largely closed, has agreed to help stop the tunnel smuggling with international technical assistance.

But no firm plan is yet in place as Israel and Hamas argue through Egyptian mediators about installing a longer term ceasefire that would meet Israel`s demands for shutting off the arms supply and Hamas`s demands for an easing of the blockade. (*)