ISMAILIA, Egypt, (Reuters) – Egypt is stepping up security on its border with the Gaza Strip after earth moving equipment came under fire from the Palestinian side for three days, a security source said on Saturday.
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz said Egypt was installing an underground metal barrier between 20 and 30 metres (70 and 100 feet) deep along the short border strip where Palestinians have dug tunnels to circumvent an Israeli blockade of Gaza.
Egyptian officials say authorities have been installing steel tubes in the ground at several points on the border, but their purpose has not been specified.
Egypt had stationed about 200 policemen and increased armoured vehicle patrols along the length of the border and in areas where excavating is under way, the security source said. “We have sent new forces from the police to the border with Gaza after repeated shooting from the Palestinian side,” the source told Reuters.
Shots had been fired from the Palestinian side of the border at equipment in the area since Thursday, the source said. No injuries were reported.
Egyptian authorities suspect those shooting were smugglers afraid that the work will damage tunnels used to take goods into Gaza clandestinely, the source added.
Despite Israeli aerial bombardment, the tunnels have remained open. Palestinian sources say the flourishing business works with the paid collusion of Egyptian border guards.
The tunnels have been used to smuggle weapons as well as basic goods.
Israel withdrew from the Strip in 2005 and its border with the coastal enclave is tightly controlled by the military. Egypt controls the southern border of the strip in a security arrangement with Israel.