CAIRO: Reports about Egypt s building of an iron wall beneath the border with Gaza in an effort to curb smuggling have abounded, with witnesses at the border town of Rafah confirming that there has been digging along the border.
Eyewitnesses told Daily News Egypt that there are no signs of a wall being built above the ground along the border, but there are a number of diggers intermittently placed along the border at regular intervals.
Additionally, long steel pipes are being inserted into the ground at the intervals where the digging was being done, they said.
A security official had denied to Al-Shorouk newspaper that this wall was being built, saying, “Egypt is dealing with smuggling seriously and capable of stopping it without this wall.
However, reports by the Associated Press (AP), Agence France-Presse (AFP) and the Israeli newspaper Haaretz seem to indicate that an underground wall is under construction, with large sheets of metal being transported to the border.
AP reported that Egyptian crews had been working on this for about three weeks and Haaretz reported that this underground wall would extend 20 to 30 meters underground.
Egyptian officials have been working with US officials on a technological barrier to detect the smuggling tunnels that permeate the border with infrared cameras and heat-detecting equipment; some have speculated that this new underground wall could be part of that.
AP alluded to this, reporting, “Egyptian and Israeli officials said the project along the border was in cooperation with the US. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the issue.
Member of the Popular Committee for the Rights of Sinai Citizens Mustapha Singer told Daily News Egypt, “This looks like an unwanted American presence on the Egyptian border with Gaza, and of course this will only exacerbate the siege of Gaza.
“Also, the possibility of any American military presence on the border dilutes the concept of sovereignty on the Egyptian border, Singer added. “It seems this has been forced by the US and Israel, and the American Congress has provided funds of $50 million for this.
However, an American diplomat in Washington DC denied US involvement and told AFP, “The US government has no role in any project on the Gaza-Egypt border that would [build] a barrier or wall.
AFP had also reported that local authorities had evacuated residents of property along the border where the digging was taking place, and had immediately compensated them for their homes.
The Gaza Strip has been blockaded for almost two and a half years now, ever since Hamas took over the territory. Since the siege, smuggling in underground tunnels has been rife, mainly to transport goods that are unavailable in the Strip but also to transport arms.