CAIRO: Both President Hosni Mubarak and Interior Minister Habib El-Adly defended Egypt’s decision to build an underground wall on the border with Gaza Sunday.
Mubarak was speaking on the occasion of Police Day, the first time it is declared a national holiday. El-Adly also spoke Sunday night on the terrestrial television show “Hadith El-Medina (Talk of the Town).
“We have started construction along our borders not to appease anyone but to protect our nation from terrorist plots like the ones that took place in Taba, Sharm El-Sheikh, Dahab and Cairo, Mubarak said in his speech.
“The reinforcements on our eastern border are a matter of Egyptian sovereignty. We do not accept debate on this issue with anyone. It is the right of the Egyptian state, and even its duty, its responsibility. It is the right of every state to control and protect its borders, he continued.
“What we do not accept, and will not accept, is that we take our borders lightly, or that our territory is violated or that our soldiers or installations are targeted.
Islamist group Hamas responded to Mubarak’s comments Monday, its Gaza spokesman Mosheer El-Masry telling reporters, “The underground wall does not serve the interests of any of the Arabs; the only benefactors are the Israeli occupiers because it will kill the last lifeline of the people of Gaza after two and half years of the siege.
For his part El-Adly said, “Who said it’s a wall? It is underground. It is not a wall but a number of steel shields underground to block the tunnels that have proliferated over wide areas on the border inside Egyptian territory.
Egypt had begun construction of this underground barrier at the turn of the year, but did not officially admit to the plans until it was pressured to do so by the press, where it was the object of severe criticism perceived as blocking the only lifeline for the blighted Gaza strip.
“Let them call it what they want, its purpose is to complete the siege of Gaza, not to protect national security, an activist in North Sinai told Daily News Egypt Monday. “The main objective of this wall is to prevent weapons going into Gaza, and so in essence to protect Israel, not Egypt.
Three members of the Tagammu Party in North Sinai were released late Sunday night after having been detained for over 24 hours due to their opposition to the building of the underground barrier.
In his speech, Mubarak also said that the region had become unstable, with a wider array of groups intent on disrupting social order in the Middle East.
“We live in a difficult region and a world fraught with tension, he added, “witnessing an expansion of instability across the world from Afghanistan to Pakistan and in Iran and Iraq, Yemen, Somalia and Sudan.
“Widening circle of Salafi ideology with groups falsely declaring people as infidels to terrorize innocent people and disturb the social stability of the nation.
Therefore, security forces would “continue fiercely confronting the terrorism and extremism … for the security of the nation and citizens, he said.
Mubarak also spoke of the recent shootings at a Church in Nagaa Hammadi, where six Christians and one Muslim were killed on Jan. 6 after the Coptic Christmas Mass.
He chastised both Al-Azhar and the Coptic Church for the lack of an enlightened religious dialogue in Egypt, and added he would not go easy on those who threatened the “unity of Egyptians.
“The brutal attack on the Copts on Christmas Eve urges us all, Muslims and Christians, to take a serious and honest stand with ourselves, Mubarak said.