Palestinian gunmen opened fire on a number of different occasions in recent days at Egyptian construction workers building a steel fence meant to separate Egypt from the Gaza Strip, Egyptian media reported on Thursday.
According to reports, the shootings took place near Rafah crossing and led to the temporary suspension of works. There were no reports of injuries in the incidents, and Egypt has increased its forces along the border.
The Arabic BBC network reported that, according to eyewitnesses in the Gaza Strip, a number of incidents have taken place in recent days in which fire was opened at the Egyptian side of the border fence. According to various reports, fire exchanges took place between Egyptian soldiers and Gazan smugglers.
Egyptian newspaper al-Gumhuriya condemned the incident Thursday morning and defended Egypt's "sovereign right" to build the fence as a means to pressure Hamas. The paper's editorial argued that the fence currently under construction is "the same fence that exists now, with invisible reinforcements being made to its foundations."
According to the report, steel plates which are 50 cm think and 18 meters long are being used to reinforce the fence, as well as plates with a 35 cm thickness and 15 meter length. The paper also slammed sources from the Egyptian opposition who criticized the construction of the fence.
"There are those who wish to present Egypt as a contributor to the blockade on the Palestinians by blocking arms smuggling passages. But these people forget that the smuggling of arms through the Sinai is a direct attack on Egypt's sovereignty, and on its legitimacy.
"It is Egypt's right to develop the fence which separates it from Gaza and it is its right to build a fence that will be strong and not be toppled by bulldozer, as this one was when hundreds of thousands of residents of the Strip stormed it in January 2008."
The Egyptian report follows details revealed last weekend, according to which Egypt is building a think steel fence, with a significant portion of it to be underground. The fence will reach a depth of 20 to 30 meters and will span many kilometers along the Egypt-Gaza border, parallel to the Philadelphi route.
Meanwhile, media in Cairo reported that the Egyptian security forces uncovered 10 more smuggling tunnels linking Gaza to the Sinai on Wednesday.
Palestinian websites cited eyewitnesses as saying work on the fence is currently in the stage of laying the foundations for fixing the steel plates. It seems the laying of the plates themselves has yet to begin.