Egyptian soldier killed by Palestinian gunmen in Rafah (archives)
Photo: AFP
Relative of sentenced Hezbollah men
Photo: AP
Who is responsible for tunnel deaths?
Photo: AP

Egypt raises alert level on Rafah border

Forces reinforced following information received on Palestinian march aimed at breaking Gaza blockade. Security presence boosted in southern Sinai as well for fear Hezbollah will avenge its activists' verdicts

Egypt on Saturday raised its alert level in two areas of conflict between Cairo and terror organizations threatening Israel as well: The Rafah crossing and the southern Sinai and Suez Canal area.


The decision to reinforce the forces stationed along the Gaza border was made following information received about a Palestinian march scheduled to take place in the afternoon hours, which will call on Egypt to "break the blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip" and open the Rafah crossing, Palestinian news agency Maan reported.


According to sources on the Egyptian side of the border, in al-Arish, it is unclear when the Rafah crossing will open – although the Egyptian authorities have announced that they plan to open the crossing on Wednesdays and Thursdays to allow patients and people waiting on both sides of the border to cross to the other side.


On Thursday, Egypt strongly denied claims that it had used gas to poison to four Palestinians to death inside a smuggling tunnel between the Gaza Strip and Sinai.


A Hamas spokesman said that "the Egyptian side is responsible for the murder of four innocent workers, who died after the Egyptian security forces pumped gas into the tunnel. We demand that this incident be investigated and that those responsible for it be put on trial."


Earlier, the Palestinian organization described the incident as "a horrendous crime" and "cold blooded murder".

Egyptian soldiers on Rafah border (Archive photo: AFP)


The previous incident to raise the tension on the border occurred several months ago, when riots broke out in the Rafah area over the construction of an underground metal wall. Armed Palestinians opened fire and killed an Egyptian soldier, infuriating Cairo.


Punishment and revenge?

Tensions are being felt in other areas as well. The Cairo-based al-Masry al-Youm newspaper reported Saturday that the Egyptian security organizations have boosted their presence in the southern Sinai area and near the Suez Canal for fear of Hezbollah's response to its activists' verdicts.


According to the report, security forces have been dispatched along the mountainous roads and vehicles traveling in the area are being stopped for security checks. Cairo fears that Hezbollah activists will enter the country following the verdicts handed down this week against members of the Shiite organization's cell in Egypt.


A security official told the newspaper, "These are natural steps following the harsh verdicts handed down against the Hezbollah cell members in Egypt. This requires boosting the security measures ahead of the possible ramifications of these sentences."


Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah said following the verdicts that "the story in Egypt is not closed. Naturally, we won't let our brothers remain in the prisons. We plan to deal with this issue in diplomatic and political ways."


פרסום ראשון: 05.01.10, 13:31
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