CAIRO: Egyptian police guarding the Al-Awja crossing in the Sinai peninsula on Friday clashed with local Bedouins seeking entry into Israel, and one officer was wounded during a shootout, security sources said. Lieutenant Ihab Saber Mussa was shot during the clashes and was rushed to hospital, one source told AFP. It was not known how seriously he had been wounded. Sinai Bedouins, complaining of what they called mistreatment by the Egyptian authorities, gathered at dawn at the crossing in the central Sinai sector which separates Egypt from Israel, seeking to force their way across the border in search of jobs.
Police tried to stop them at which point gunshots were heard, another source said. On Thursday, dozens of Egyptian Bedouins tried to clamber over barbed wire at the Kerem Shalom crossing point into Israel, fearing police reprisals following a deadly incident a day earlier. Kerem Shalom lies where the borders of Egypt, Israel and the Gaza Strip meet, and is used as crossing point for goods entering or leaving the sanctions-stricken Palestinian territory. One member of the Bedouin tribes told AFP they wanted to enter Israel because they feared police brutality and arrests after two Bedouins – Ahmed Abdel Rahim Salem and Khalil Salman Hamid – were killed by police when they refused to stop at a checkpoint in a mountainous region of central Sinai. According to the interior ministry, police responded when the two fugitives opened fire on them during the chase. The government has accused Sinai Bedouins of involvement in various kinds of cross-border trafficking, as well as aiding terrorist groups responsible for deadly bomb attacks that targeted Red Sea resorts in recent years.
Egyptian security forces responded with major crackdowns. Local and international human rights groups have repeatedly denounced Egyptian police operations in the area as heavy-handed and arrests as arbitrary.