US backs plan for Egypt's wall with Gaza

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WASHINGTON: The United States Tuesday voiced its support for a wall being built by Egypt to block a network of tunnels stretching out from the Gaza Strip, arguing it would stop arms smuggling.

We believe that weapon-smuggling should stop and that measures taken to stop that weapon-smuggling should be, could be carried out, yes, said State Department spokesman Gordon Duguid.

The vast network of tunnels from Gaza to Egypt, constructed in the sandy earth to bypass a crippling Israeli blockade, has become an economic lifeline for the Palestinians.

The network has weathered Israeli air strikes and Egyptian attempts to flood tunnels with water and gas, but there are accusations that they are used to smuggle weapons into the Gaza Strip run by Islamic Hamas.

Citing national security, Egypt is now building an underground iron wall in a new bid to tighten its porous Sinai border with the restive Palestinian territory.

Cairo – which states support for Palestinians and has long mediated between both Israel and Hamas and among Palestinian factions – has only implicitly admitted constructing the iron barrier and has provided no details on its size.

Media reports, however, said it would be 30 meters deep and 10 kilometers long.

But Duguid stressed Washington also supported greater access for humanitarian supplies to get into Gaza.

There are established channels for that, and those established channels should not be hindered by Hamas or any party in Gaza.

Egypt at the weekend banned aid convoys bound for the Gaza Strip from traveling across Egyptian territory after activists clashed with police.

Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit told the government newspaper Al-Ahram that members of one convoy led by British MP George Galloway committed criminal acts on Egyptian soil on their way to Gaza.

Egypt will no longer allow convoys, regardless of their origin or who is organizing them, from crossing its territory, Aboul Gheit said. -AFP

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