'State of emergency on Gaza border'

Egypt reportedly catches wind of plan to break out of Strip.

gaza border APC 311 (photo credit: AP [file])
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 chemicals 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.