By DPA – 25 Jan 2010
Gaza City – Hamas on Monday sharply criticized Egyptian President Hosny Mubarak’s defence of his country’s expanded fortifications on its border with the Gaza Strip. The Egyptian government has faced rising domestic and regional criticism since a report first published by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz said Egypt was building an underground steel barrier along the Gaza border to curtail smuggling through tunnels under the border.
“Mubarak’s remarks defending the steel (border) wall are an address on the blockade of 1.5 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip,” Hamas spokesman Mushir al-Masri told reporters in Gaza City.
The Egyptian president’s statements “contradict his earlier remarks that he would not allow the starvation of the Palestinian people in Gaza,” al-Masri accused.
On Sunday Mubarak marked the national annual Police Day holiday by declaring: “Fortifications along our eastern border are a work of Egyptian sovereignty, and we refuse to enter into a debate with anyone (about them,)”.
A lucrative smuggling trade in basic commodities, contraband but also in weapons has taken root along the Gazan-Egyptian border since Egypt and Israel closed the territory’s borders after Hamas took control of its security services nearly three years ago.
“Egypt’s steel wall does not serve the interests of any Arab party,” Hamas’ al-Masri said Monday. “The Israeli occupation benefits from it, because it has killed the last lifeline keeping the Gaza Strip alive after two and a half years of siege.”
Egypt has repeatedly defended its efforts to increase the security of its eastern border as a matter of “sovereignty” and “national security.”