gaza border APC 311.
(photo credit: AP [file])
Egypt has declared a state of emergency on its border with Gaza, the Ma'an news agency reported on Saturday, citing Egyptian defense officials.
According to the report, Cairo caught wind of a Palestinian plan to break out of the blockaded Strip. Four days previously, four Palestinians had been killed and six wounded inside a smuggling tunnel under that same border.
Following the incident, Hamas had accused Egypt of using poisonous
to gas the smugglers, killing them.
Egypt, however, denied the reports, saying that it routinely blows up
the mouths to the tunnels to seal them off, and that the blast and an
ensuing fire could quickly use up all the oxygen in the confined space,
causing people caught inside to suffocate.
Egypt has been under pressure to shut down the hundreds of tunnels that
are a key economic lifeline for the Palestinian territory but which are
also used to bring in weapons for Hamas.
Palestinian officials in Rafah said Egypt has stepped up a crackdown on
smuggling in recent months, blowing up numerous tunnel entrances on its
side of the border, setting up checkpoints in the area and confiscating
contraband. Since December, Egypt has also been building an underground
steel wall to block the tunnels.