Hundreds of Palestinian and Egyptian police formed human cordons on both sides of the Gaza-Egypt border Thursday to block Palestinians trying to get through after gunmen blasted a hole in a cement wall near the crossing.
Egypt also imposed a curfew on the nearby town of Rafah, ordering all stores, banks and restaurants shut, said Ahmed el-Masri, chief of police there.
Border breached (Photo: Reuters)
An Associated Press reporter at the scene heard men with megaphones screaming that they were from the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas' military wing, and saying they were responsible for the blast. They also threatened "another bold action" after evening prayers, but did not elaborate.
Two Israeli F-16 fighter jets screeched across the sky, setting off a sonic boom that sent Palestinians below running for cover. Two Israeli helicopters also flew overhead.
The Israel Defense Forces confirmed aerial activity in the vicinity, but said it had not attacked any targets from the air in the Rafah region.
The sound of automatic weapons being fired into the air was heard over Palestinian national songs being blasted from speakers on the Gaza side. Loudspeakers also broadcast voices encouraging Palestinians to keep trying to penetrate the border.
Missile boats continue to fire shells
Dozens of Palestinians, mostly young boys, struggled to push through the 12-foot- wide hole and hurdle a second border wall less than 100 yards away, witnesses said.
Boys threw rocks at Palestinian security forces, but at one point stopped in order to pray alongside the border fences. None was able to cross into Egypt.
A tractor maneuvered at the site but was able to close only part of the gap.
Medical officials said two police officers standing near the wall were injured by the explosion.
Palestinians allied to Hamas and Islamic Jihad blasted holes in an Israeli-built wall at Rafah in September, flowing by the hundreds into Egypt. That breach occurred only days after Israel withdrew its last troops from Gaza, officially transferring the coastal strip to Palestinian control.
Earlier, Palestinians reported that two Palestinian police officers were wounded by IDF artillery fire at a post of the Palestinians National Security in the northern Strip. According to the report, the two were hurt by shrapnel.
IDF officials reported that missile boats are continuing to fire shells at areas in the northern Gaza Strip in a bid to prevent a possibility of moving kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit from one place to another.
Ali Waked contributed to the report