CAIRO: Construction work is still ongoing on the border with the Gaza Strip, but for the past two days there has been no erecting of the infamous underground steel wall.
Eyewitnesses told Daily News Egypt that digging was still underway, as well as the insertion of long steel pipes underground but there was no work regarding the metal sheets supposedly meant to be a long underground barrier.
Al-Shorouk newspaper reported Wednesday that Egypt halted construction on the wall over fears of a strong reaction by Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and another possible breach in the border like the one that took place in January 2008.
“We are afraid that this [breach] might happen at any moment, we know the situation is delicate, an unnamed official told the newspaper. Another official said that Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman’s recent visit to Israel was to discuss – among other things – the easing of the Israeli blockade on the Strip to avoid another breach.
North Sinai activist Khalil Jabr Sawarkeh told Daily News Egypt that there was anger on the Gazan side over the construction of the new barrier but that there would be no attempt to breach the border unless the tunnels are completely shut off.
“The thermometer is the tunnels; if they can no longer transport goods to Gaza because of this wall then a breach might be attempted, he said.
Other reports had indicated that the barrier was being built by Egypt in an attempt to force Hamas into reaching an agreement with rival faction Fatah and the formation of a unity government, a process Egypt is currently mediating.
However, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hossam Zaki denied this, saying the work would continue even if an agreement were to be reached.
The procedures that Egypt is undertaking inside its lands, whether building or construction work along the border with the Gaza Strip, is an Egyptian concern that is related to Egypt and Egyptian national security, Reuters reported him as saying. We refuse to call the construction a steel wall and wonder where such a name came from, he added.
Earlier this month, news reports indicated that construction had begun on the border with Gaza in what appeared to be a large underground wall being built in an attempt to curb the smuggling via the underground tunnels on the border.
Egypt at first denied the reports then – after footage and images of the work and new wall emerged – alluded to construction on the border, which it stated was related to national security and sovereignty and not the concern of anyone else. It refuses to call it an underground wall and insists it is merely a reinforcement of the standing wall that lines the border.