ISMAILIA, Egypt, (Reuters) – Egypt sent hundreds of police officers to the sealed Rafah border crossing with the Gaza Strip on Friday to boost security and prevent any attempt by Palestinians to breach the frontier, security sources said.
They said Egypt was responding to information it received that thousands of Palestinians planned to gather on the Gaza side of the border after Muslim Friday prayers to protest an Israeli-led blockade. “The strengthening of security comes as a precautionary
measure to prevent any operation by the Palestinian side to storm Egyptian territory,” one of the sources said, speaking on customary condition of anonymity. “Hundreds of policemen concentrated in Rafah and some armoured vehicles were sent to inside the Rafah crossing and in front of its gate,” the source added.
Gaza militants blasted open the border in January in a move that allowed hundreds of thousands of Gazans to stream across the frontier at Rafah to stock up on food and fuel for 10 days before the frontier was resealed. Egypt wants to prevent a repeat of that incident.
Security sources put the number of police sent to the crossing on Friday at between 300 to 400, and identified them as officers already in Rafah town who had been on standby to go to the border. The sources said there was no specific threat to the frontier.
The move came as Israel dismissed a proposal by Palestinian militant group Hamas for a six-month Gaza truce during which an embargo on the territory would be lifted, saying that the Gaza Islamists wanted to prepare for more fighting rather than peace.
The Hamas offer, issued on Thursday following talks with Egyptian mediators, departed from previous demands by the group that any ceasefire apply simultaneously in Hamas-run Gaza and the occupied West Bank.
Israel, which controls Gaza’s borders, has restricted the passage of goods and fuel in a bid to maintain pressure on Hamas Islamists opposed to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s peace moves toward the Jewish state.
Israeli leaders have said Gazans should not expect to be able to lead normal lives while militant groups in the Hamas-run strip continue to fire rockets at Israel. But they have promised to avoid a humanitarian crisis.