Hamas bolsters Gaza’s Egypt border in bid to ease tensions

Cairo regularly accuses terror group of supporting attacks on its soil, has largely kept its border crossing with enclave closed since 2013

 

Members of Hamas' security forces patrol an area along the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, where Hamas began increasing its forces, on April 14, 2016 in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip. (SAID KHATIB/AFP)

Hamas began deploying additional forces on the Gaza Strip border with Egypt on Thursday, the interior ministry said, in an apparent effort to ease Cairo’s concerns about security.

“National security forces started today to increase the number of its troops and double the security bases along all the southern border with Egypt to be able to control the border better,” spokesman Iyad al-Bazm told AFP.

He said they had established three new bases immediately.

“This is a message that we are concerned with border security and stability,” Bazm said, adding nobody would be allowed “to touch the security of Egypt.”

Hamas forces were seen setting up about 10 temporary buildings along the border.

Palestinians gather at the Rafah Border Crossing in the southern Gaza Strip, as they await permission to enter Egypt, June 12, 2015. (Flash90/Aaed Tayeh)

Palestinians gather at the Rafah Border Crossing in the southern Gaza Strip, as they await permission to enter Egypt, June 12, 2015. (Flash90/Aaed Tayeh)

Bulldozers flattened the land near the frontier in apparent preparation for more temporary structures.

A Palestinian security officer called the measures “important new security arrangements to reassure the brothers in Egypt the border is secure.”

A delegation headed by Hamas political bureau member Moussa Abu Marzouk held talks in Egypt last month aimed at normalizing relations that have been strained since the overthrow of Islamist president Mohammed Morsi in 2013.

Morsi had good relations with Hamas, the Islamist rulers of the Gaza Strip, but his replacement President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has cracked down on his Muslim Brotherhood movement.

Cairo regularly accuses Hamas of supporting attacks in Egypt and has largely kept its border with Gaza closed since 2013.

It has also destroyed hundreds of Palestinian tunnels used to smuggle commercial goods, cash, people and, allegedly, weapons.

The Hamas interior ministry said 2015 was the worst year for the Rafah border crossing in recent years, saying it was open for just 21 days in total.

timesofisrael

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