Egypt constructs huge Gaza wall

Hamas expresses its dismay as Egypt acts to cut Gaza's smuggling routes

Egypt has reportedly begun building an underground iron wall along its border with the Gaza Strip in a major upgrading of its efforts to end smuggling through tunnels. Egyptian security officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that the wall project is under way. Local residents reported Egyptian clearing work was in progress 90 metres from the border over the last three weeks.

The Egyptian project comes at the encouragement of the US. After Israel's devastating Operation Cast Lead in Gaza last winter, Washington took the lead in encouraging international efforts to stop smuggling of weaponry into the Strip through the tunnels. Israeli defence officials say that the Qassam rockets that struck Israeli targets before and during the Gaza war came from Egypt via the tunnels.

But the underground links also form a vital lifeline for the passage of everyday necessities in the face of a draconian Israeli blockade of the Strip that has at times gone so far as to bar the import of pasta into the coastal enclave.

According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, the wall will be 9-10km long and will be sunk 20-30m into the ground. It is supposed to be impenetrable and impossible to melt. It is not expected to halt smuggling completely, but to cut hundreds of existing tunnels and force diggers to go deeper than they have gone before.

Leaders of Hamas, the Islamist movement that rules the Gaza Strip, are believed to have been greatly dismayed by Egypt's willingness to implement the project while the Israeli blockade continues and while Egypt keeps its own crossing with the Strip closed. But last night they declined to put their feelings on record, apparently wary of further antagonising Cairo, which is already angry over Hamas's refusal to sign an Egyptian-brokered national reconciliation deal with the rival Fatah movement.

But Hassan Khreisheh, an independent nationalist in the West Bank who is deputy speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, described the project as "a shame for the Egyptians".

"They talk of supporting the Palestinians while they co-operate with others in imposing the siege and preventing food and supplies from reaching Gaza," Mr Khreisheh said. "They are collaborating with the Americans."

Abdullah Abdullah, a legislator who supports Mahmoud Abbas, the moderate Palestinian President, voiced understanding for the Egyptian move. "We can't deny Egypt's right to protect its sovereignty and people against intrusion. At the same time we want the Egyptians not to deny the Palestinians their means of livelihood."

Egypt is wary of Hamas because it is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, the long-established transnational movement that supports the creation of an Islamic state in Egypt and which has long been a thorn in the flesh of President Mubarak. Cairo was criticised both before and during the war for allegedly providing diplomatic cover for Israel.

Mark Regev, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said: "I cannot confirm what the Egyptians are doing and not doing. But I can say over the last two months the Egyptians have been enhancing their anti-smuggling efforts. We welcome that."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there