Egyptian police shot and killed a Sudanese woman and seriously wounded four others Sunday on the Sinai Peninsula as they tried to sneak into Israel, a local police officer said. Many refugees trying to enter Israel from Egypt have been arrested, and some wounded, by police, but Haja Abbas Haroun's death was the first of its kind. Haroun, 28, was killed instantly by police gunfire, while four others, including a woman and young girl, were critically wounded and taken to a local hospital, said Capt. Muhammad Badr of the northern Sinai police force.
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The border guards arrested 22 refugees with Haroun who were also seeking political asylum in Israel, Badr added. Eighteen from the group, including Haroun and three of the wounded, were from Sudan's war-torn Darfur region. The rest were from Eritrea and the Ivory Coast, the home country of the fourth person injured.
The incident took place in the central Sinai town of Al-Aouja, some 100 km. south of Rafah.
Badr said the individuals had paid thousands of dollars to smugglers to get into Israel, but the traffickers left the group near the border and fled just minutes before police arrived.
Last month, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert asked Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to step up efforts to stop African refugees crossing the border. The two leaders also agreed that most of the African refugees who are currently in Israel would be deported to Egypt.
Officials in the Prime Minister's Office said the Egyptian government repeatedly guaranteed the refugees' safety. Local Egyptian sources, however, have increasingly reported human rights abuses against the refugees. In addition to more than a dozen refugees who have been shot and wounded while trying to cross the border, 25 refugees were shot and killed in a Cairo protest last December, according to Egyptian media.
"The escalating violence that the refugees are facing in Egypt has led us to recommend that the government not deport these people," said Ilan Lonai, a campaign coordinator for Amnesty International (AI).
More than 100 refugees have been caught trying to cross the Egyptian border this month.
Joining the thousands, some 45 African refugees managed to cross the border and were abandoned in the streets of Beersheba Sunday, even though the IDF was supposed to bring them to the Ketziot prison.
Last week, the IDF began transferring refugees directly to the prison, which has built a temporary caravan park that can hold up to 300 refugees, until a larger "camp site" is built adjacent to the prison.
That camp site would hold more than 1,000 refugees, according to Israel Prisons Services.
Beersheba, which has taken in hundreds of refugees over the past year, recently refused to take charge of any more, claiming that the refugees were the government's responsibility.
Student volunteers in the area have continued trying to find solutions for the refugees, despite the municipality's objections.